The HSE is urging young men and women in Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to get the life-saving HPV vaccine, as the Laura Brennan HPV vaccine catch-up campaign draws to a close in the coming weeks.

With limited clinics available until December 31, this will be the last chance for young people who haven’t had the HPV vaccine before to avail of this crucial vaccine for free via www.HPV.ie.

As part of the Laura Brennan HPV (human papillomavirus) Vaccine Catch-Up Programme, the vaccine is available to:

  • men, aged 21 and younger
  • women, aged 24 and younger

There will be free HPV vaccine clinics in Shannon Health Centre (December 7), Kilrush Health Centre (December 13), and Ennistymon Health Centre (December 27).

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause approximately 90% of cervical cancers; 90-95% of HPV-related anal cancer; and 90% of genital warts.

Due to high demand since the scheme was extended to young men in September, the HSE has decided to reopen clinics at Primary Care Centres in the community, and will be opening clinics in community hubs over the coming weeks.

To date, we have vaccinated more than 860 people as part of the campaign.

Jennifer Purcell, from Limerick City, has been a strong, local advocate for the HPV vaccine since her experience with cervical cancer in 2019.

Her message to young women and men is to get protected in order to avoid serious illness later in life.

Jennifer’s cervical cancer story

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I turned 25. It was during the summer of 2019, I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday over drinks or have a party with friends. I spent my birthday in hospital, having surgery to remove cancer from my cervix. 

At the time, Laura Brennan was running an extensive campaign for the HPV vaccine, as she was dying of cervical cancer at just 26. I was in awe of her relentlessness and resilience, I felt connected to this campaign in a way I can’t explain. Perhaps it was that we were similar in age, yet her life was being cut short when it could have been prevented.

I started doing some digging and realised the HPV vaccine was rolled out in secondary school the year after I finished, so I had just missed the window.

I guess hindsight is a great thing, and until tragedy strikes, we just never expect it could happen to us. But part of me felt a real sense of unease, an unease I couldn’t shake. Our bodies have a way of speaking to us; a sixth sense or a gut feeling, that something just isn’t right.

I got the letter just a few weeks before my 25th birthday to book my cervical screening, “can you come in tomorrow” said the nurse to my surprise, and it was like a sign.

I got a call a few weeks later with the news that I had highly abnormal precancerous cells (high grade dyskaryosis CIN2 and CIN3) which followed with a colposcopy and LLETZ treatment to remove the cells.

“Don’t be worrying,” said all my friends and family, who made a point of saying if it was anything more serious, they would call me within 2 weeks with results.

Two weeks later, I got that dreaded call. I had stage 1 Cervical Cancer at just 25 years old.

I stared blankly at the booklet, reading the words ‘understanding cervical cancer’ over and over again as the doctor muttered my action plan in the background. I had prepared myself for the worst, but I was lucky enough to have caught it so swiftly that the surgery removed it all. I thank Laura every day for potentially saving my life.

I didn’t have the chance to get the HPV vaccine for free, which could have prevented me from ever having cervical cancer, but it’s fantastic to see it being offered completely free until the end of the year to carry on Laura’s legacy.

The campaign ends in a few weeks’ time—at the end of December—and getting this free vaccine is giving people a unique chance to protect themselves against serious illness later in life.

The HPV vaccine is available to people with a cervix up to the age of 25 and has now been extended to males up to their 22nd birthday. 

The vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause approximately 90% of cervical cancers, 90-95% of HPV-related anal cancer, and 90% of genital warts. HPV infection can lead to cancer in men, including penile, anal, oral, and throat cancers, as well as genital warts.

I hope that we can achieve the goal of eliminating cervical cancer in Ireland, as Laura herself said: “Get your facts. Get the vaccine.”

 

Limerick clinics

December 12 – St Brendan’s Health Centre, Rosbrien

December 20 – Roxtown Health Centre, Limerick City

December 28 – Roxtown Health Centre, Limerick City

Clare clinics

December 7 – Shannon Health Centre

December 13 – Kilrush Health Centre

December 27 – Ennistymon Health Centre

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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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