*The Brennan family talk to the Clare Senior Hurling panel at Cusack Park. Photograph by Eamon Ward
Teenage boys will for the first time in Ireland be given the option to get the HPV vaccination at schools, the family of the late Laura Brennan are urging parents with children of both sexes to sign consent forms and protect them from HPV related cancers.
Ennis’ Laura Brennan was a tireless advocate for the HPV vaccine up until her death from cervical cancer in March of this year. Her campaigning led to a surge in the number of young women taking the vaccine with the HSE confirming that since Laura fist contacted them in 2017, the uptake increased from 51% to 70%.
Over the past five months, her family have continued her good work with the launch of an initiative where sports clubs across the world are now wearing the HPV logo to raise awareness to people of all ages.
“It’s a very important year for the vaccination, it’s the first year that it’s being rolled out to boys in first year and once again to girls. Consent forms are going out the end of August and the first week of September, the vaccinations are in school from September and the aim would be to get as many boys and girls in first year across the country vaccinated and protected from HPV related cancers,” Laura’s brother Kevin told The Clare Echo.
“Given the amount of misinformation out there it’s completely understandable that parents might have concerns or be confused, if they are I’d recommend they get their information through reputable sources, speak to their GP or go to HPV.ie for factual information. I’d encourage parents who might not be considering getting their children vaccinated this September to consider the situation if in God forbid ten or fifteen years time their son or daughter is to get a cancer as a result of the HPV virus and their child was to ask them ‘why didn’t you vaccinate me’, what would their answer be given every single GP in the country, every cancer specialist, the HSE, the WHO and their research back us up saying it is effective. What would their answer be to their child if they asked ‘why didn’t you vaccinate me’”.
There is an onus on parents he felt to make a “responsible decision” and said a high uptake would save 110 lives in Ireland every year. “This is the most tested vaccine in the history of vaccines, countries like Scotland and Australia who have reached 90 percent vaccination rates are well on their way to eradicate HPV related cancers. My sister when she was around would have said, she was an example of an unvaccinated girl, she is not here anymore, parents have to make the responsible decision and get their children vaccinated”.
On September 16th, ‘Laura Brennan: This Is Me’ a documentary which is available to view on the RTÉ Player will be aired on RTÉ to further increase the uptake of teenagers taking the vaccine. “Before Laura passed away she would have been in constant communication with RTÉ but that was one of the clauses she had with the documentary that it would be aired at a time that would maximise the potential of more boys and girls getting vaccinated. It will be aired in September when the vaccination teams are in schools and we are very hopeful it will have a positive impact on that,” Kevin added.