*Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly with Colin, Bernie, Larry and Fergal Brennan. Photograph: Don Moloney

A NATIONAL VACCINE CATCH UP PROGRAMME has been named in honour of a late Ennis health advocate.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly (FF) announced on Thursday that a new HPV vaccine catch up programme would be named in honour of the late Laura Brennan, she who worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the vaccine upon receiving a terminal diagnosis. The Ennis native died from cervical cancer in March 2019, at the age of 26.

During the last 18 months of her life, she had a huge impact on the improvement of HPV vaccination rates, uptake increased to 90 percent in Clare and 50 percent in other parts of Ireland before Laura’s death.

In mid-November, the Laura Brennan HPV Catch-Up Programme will be launched and will see all boys and girls in secondary schools plus women up to the age of 25 able to avail of the vaccine for free.

Speaking at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Minister Donnelly noted how Laura’s efforts were “so incredibly effective” in driving an uptake of the vaccine. He said, “Laura Brennan is the epitome of inspiration for all of us. Even when faced with a terminal diagnosis, Laura dedicated herself to promoting the HPV vaccine to ensure that as few families as possible would have to go through the rigours of cancer treatment and end-of-life care as she did”.

Minister Donnelly stated, “The Laura Brennan HPV Vaccine programme is a fitting tribute to the memory and the tireless efforts Laura made to encourage young people to take up this vaccine. Vaccines save lives and, through screening and vaccination, we are working to eliminate cervical cancer in Ireland – I really cannot think of a better way to remember Laura than achieving this goal through the programme named after her”.

Last September, Laura would have turned thirty, her mother Bernie recounted. “The reality of living with cancer, and then life after cancer when someone passes away means that we miss out on milestone celebrations with our loved ones. To see the HPV Catch-Up Programme named in Laura’s memory is a comfort and a testament to Laura’s dedication to increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccine. I urge all parents to discuss HPV vaccination with their children and encourage them to take it – vaccines prevent cancer. Prevention is better than cure and prevention is definitely better than no cure”.

Kevin, Laura’s brother who has continued to spread her message to promote the uptake of her passing said, “It is an honour to have the programme named after Laura and it is testament to Laura’s dedication to increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccine while she was with us”. He thanked Minister Donnelly “for recognising Laura’s efforts with this honour”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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