‘We are lost without her’: HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan (26) dies

‘She wanted to use the time that she had to right what she felt was a great wrong’

 

The death has been announced of Laura Brennan, the HPV vaccine campaigner and patient advocate who was the public face of many Health Service Executive health initiatives.

Ms Brennan, who had cervical cancer, died on Wednesday at University Hospital Limerick, her family said.

“Laura was a light in the life of everyone who knew her; a wonderful daughter, sister and friend. We are lost without her,” the Brennan family said in a statement released through the HSE.

“We are all incredibly proud of the work she did in the last 18 months to help protect other young women like herself from the cancer that has taken her life today.

“Laura used her voice, her generosity and her energy to help parents to make informed choices and protect their daughters from cervical cancer.

“She wanted to make a difference, and use the time that she had to right what she felt was a great wrong.”

The family has asked for privacy to allow it time to adjust to her loss and grieve for her.

From Co Clare, Ms Brennan first contacted the HSE in September 2017 saying she wanted to advocate publicly for the HPV vaccine after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cervical cancer.

At the time the uptake of the vaccine was falling due to a campaign of opposition by some parents who alleged, without scientific evidence, their daughters were suffering chronic health conditions since receiving it. Uptake has since recovered from a low of 52 per cent at the time to 70 per cent now.

Ms Brennan said she was determined every parent in Ireland who was about to make the decision whether their daughter was to be vaccinated against HPV, would hear her story first.

“This illness is devastating and it’s going to take my life but the good news is there’s a vaccine that you can get that prevents it. HPV caused my cancer. I just wanted parents to know there is an alternative.” she said at the time.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was deeply saddened to learn of her death. “She continued her advocacy and thanks in no small part to her sheer determination, the uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased among young women. The State owes her a debt of gratitude.

“As a person, she was kind, funny and full of life. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Every time I met Laura or spoke with her, I was inspired by her. Amazing doesn’t do justice to her or her courage. I want to extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.”