Dr James McDaid, who abstained from the Dáil vote to end the cervical cancer vaccine programme in 2008, has spoken out after the airing of 'This Is Me'.

Leading doctor and former Government Minister Jim McDaid has questioned the number of young women who have died after the government ended the free HPV vaccine scheme in 2008.

Dr McDaid, a former Fianna Fail Minister, famously lost the party whip for refusing to support his party’s decision to scrap the programme.

At the time, Dr McDaid said he simply could not support the motion and abstained saying the withdrawal of the vaccine was passing “a death sentence on a certain percentage of these 12-year-old girls” whose parents could not afford the costs.

Dr. James McDaid

The Letterkenny-based GP was speaking in the wake of RTE’s showing of the documentary, This Is Me, featuring HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan.

Ms Brennan passed away from cervical cancer on March 20th this year, aged just 26.

The late Laura Brennan

Laura attempted to raise the importance of getting the HPV vaccine in saving lives by filming the final months of her life journey. 

She filmed a campaign on behalf of the HSE urging parents to have their daughters vaccinated at a time when levels of vaccination were around 51%. At the time of her death these levels had risen to around 70%.

Dr McDaid told Donegal Daily: “I watched the documentary and it was so sad. She was a lovely young woman and she has a lovely family. It was difficult to watch.

“I thought of her and the cohort of other young women who may have died as a result of not getting the vaccine.

“I just thought back to the time in 2008 when the Government decided not to press ahead with the vaccine programme because of a miserly ten million euro a year. That’s all it was in the grand scheme of things.

“I just couldn’t vote with the Government and so I abstained. I knew there was going to be a certain amount of young girls who were around twelve years old at that time who were going to die as a result of not getting vaccinated.

“I just couldn’t vote in favour of scrapping the vaccination scheme because it went against all the values I had as a doctor.

“It’s not about if I was right or wrong. The television programme with Laura just brought it all back to me and reminded what we could have done if we had kept the vaccination programme,” he said.

Dr McDaid paid tribute to Ms Brennan in raising awareness of the need for the vaccine programme to continue and increase.

He dismissed concerns that the vaccine could cause cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

“I am obviously fully endorsing the vaccine programme. Obviously some people are claiming that the vaccine leads to cases of fatigue. However, the same number of people suffer from fatigue who do not get the vaccine,” he said.