A free catch-up programme offering HPV vaccination to girls and boys in secondary schools who missed out on it for any reason in the last few years opened on Thursday.
The ‘Laura Brennan HPV Vaccination Catch-Up Programme’ is also available for young women up to the age of 25 who have left secondary school and did not previously receive the vaccine.
So far more than 500,000 people have received a HPV vaccine. The vaccine, which is proven to be safe and effective, protects against the types of HPV which cause nine out of 10 cervical cancers.
An online registration portal opened on Thursday for people aged 16 and over, with a plan to extend this to younger students from next year. The vaccines will be available free through secondary schools and HSE vaccination clinics.
This programme is supported by the parents of the late Laura Brennan, who campaigned for higher uptake of the HPV vaccine before her death from cervical cancer in 2019. She was just aged 26 when she died and is survived by her parents Bernie and Larry Brennan.
The Brennans said Laura was determined to do everything in her power to encourage people to get the HPV vaccine to protect their health.
“Vaccines save lives and Laura’s hope was that by speaking out, she could prevent others from losing their lives and spare other families the pain of losing a loved one,” the bereaved parents said.
“We’re incredibly proud that her campaigning has had such a lasting impact, and it’s comforting to know that many lives will be saved by people availing of the HPV vaccine through the programme named in her memory.”
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was an honour to be joined by Laura’s family to mark the opening of the online portal.
“They have campaigned tirelessly in the memory of their courageous daughter and have shown commendable commitment and energy in continuing to spread her message in the midst of their own immeasurable grief,” he said.
“This programme embodies Laura’s message of vaccine promotion and will encourage and facilitate further uptake of this life-saving intervention. It is by increasing HPV vaccination and screening among our population that we will finally reach our goal of eliminating cervical cancer in Ireland.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Breda Smyth, said: “The Laura Brennan HPV Vaccination Catch-Up Programme is a worthy tribute in recognition of Laura’s tireless work to promote HPV vaccine uptake both in Ireland and internationally.”
She urged all eligible young people, or their parents, to register their interest in availing of this “life-saving vaccine”. Over half a million people have been vaccinated so far, according to the National Immunisation Lead at the National Immunisation Office, Dr Lucy Jessop.
“The HSE has been offering HPV vaccines to girls since 2010 as part of the school immunisation programme and in 2019 the programme was extended to include boys in first year of second-level schools,” she said.
The HPV vaccine will be delivered by HSE vaccinators and is available free of charge through HSE vaccination clinics and schools.
The school immunisation programme for first-year students will continue as normal throughout 2023 and is not part of the catch-up programme.
Eligible people aged 16 or over can book their appointment at www.hpv.ie.