Laura Brennan, one of Ireland’s leading patient advocates and HPV vaccine campaigner, has died at the age of 26.
The popular young Ennis woman, who was terminally ill with cervical cancer, passed away at University Hospital Limerick on Wednesday.
Laura made a major impact in campaigning for women’s health in recent years. Following her own diagnosis, she spoke out in support of the HSE HPV Vaccine and encouraged all parents to have their daughters vaccinated.
Just last week, it was revealed that Laura’s tireless work had led to a surge in vaccine uptake to 70%.
The announcement of her death was met with shock, sadness and an outpouring of gratitude for her efforts to protect young women from HPV and cervical cancer.
“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.”
"I wish the vaccine had been available to me, of course I do. Don’t get swayed by rumours about the vaccine’s safety – get the vaccine" Watch Laura Brennan's story. #ProtectOurFuture pic.twitter.com/ZgYem3i6TY
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) March 18, 2019
Laura contacted the HSE in 2017, when she was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, with a wish to publicly promote the importance of HPV vaccinations. Since then, the 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.
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.
He added: “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 acknowledgement of her advocacy work.