HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan has died at the age of 26.
Laura fronted a number of campaigns for the HSE and the World Health Organisation encouraging young women to get vaccinated.
In a statement the Ennis woman’s family described her as ‘a wonderful daughter, sister and friend.’
They say Laura used her voice, her generosity and her energy to help parents to make informed choices and protect their daughters from cervical cancer.
The family has appealed for privacy.
Last month Laura, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 took part in a video to mark World Cancer Day.
The Brennan Family statement
‘Laura was a light in the life of everyone who knew her; a wonderful daughter, sister and friend. We are lost without her.’
‘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.’
‘As we say goodbye to Laura, we would ask that our privacy be respected to allow us time to adjust and grieve for her.’
Thank You Laura – On behalf of the HSE
Anne O’Connor, Interim HSE Director General, today expressed her sincere condolences to the family and friends of Laura Brennan, one of Ireland’s leading patient advocates who died today from cervical cancer. Laura has contributed enormous time and energy campaigning to support HPV vaccination and preventing cervical cancer since March 2018.
Anne O’Connor, speaking on behalf of the HSE’s Leadership Team and all our staff, said today:
‘We are all deeply saddened to learn of Laura’s death, and we feel immense gratitude and admiration for her and her family. Laura has defined courage and generosity as she supported our work to ensure girls get the HPV vaccine, and are protected from this terrible cancer.’
‘Laura came forward when she was first diagnosed with terminal cancer and our mission became hers. We know that Laura has made a difference, and will have saved lives through her great effort and her tremendous generosity of spirit.’
Paul Connors, HSE National Director of Communications, said:
‘Laura, her parents and brothers have given everyone in Ireland a remarkable gift. At a moment when her time was most precious, she chose to stand in the public eye and tell her story, in order to help others. She has reached many thousands of families, through her remarkable videos as part of our advertising campaign, by telling her story in the media on television, radio, print and online, and by speaking at events all over the country.’
‘Laura’s message has also spread outside Ireland; she was invited by the World Health Organisation to Copenhagen, to prepare for an EU-wide campaign that was launched recently, and she also addressed a cervical cancer event in Boston in 2018.’
‘Laura’s personal story, her leadership and her warm and vivacious personality provided many parents in Ireland with the understanding they needed to protect their daughters with the HPV vaccine. Uptake rates have risen dramatically, and we know they will increase further, saving many lives, thanks to Laura, and Laura’s family.’
Laura spoke at and was honoured at many events over the last year, receiving the inaugural Patient Advocate Medal from the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, and most recently being named Clare Person of the Year. She was conferred with an honorary doctorate by UCD in acknowledgment of her advocacy work.
Here in her own words, Laura talked at that time about how she wanted to use her voice for the good of others and what she had hoped to achieve in her work as an activist and an advocate:
‘I found my voice about a year and a half ago when I felt compelled to join the campaign to increase the number of girls receiving the HPV vaccine. When I did so, I joined the voices of all the HPV advocates in the country, along with the HSE and the HPV alliance, and together – our voices became louder. Loud enough so that people could hear us. And thankfully, not only did they listen, they have started to act and that is the only reward I need – that parents agree to get their girls and boys vaccinated against this virus that is so common, so destructive and so preventable. This vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine but it can save yours.’
Since Laura contacted the HSE in 2017, uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased almost 20 percentage points, from 51% in 2017 to 70% today.
In March 2019, over 22,000 girls got the HPV vaccine to protect them from cervical cancer.
Thank you Laura, from everyone in the health service, for all you have done.