ONE YEAR ago today, Ireland lost one of its most relentless, dedicated and fierce activists: 26-year-old HPV vaccine advocate Laura Brennan.
Laura threw herself into a life of advocacy upon learning at the age of 25 that she was suffering with an incurable cervical cancer caused by HPV, an entirely avoidable disease had she been given the HPV vaccine.
While the vaccine is now widely available in secondary schools, during Laura's time in school it was not offered to her, and despite its indisputable life-saving qualities, uptake of the vaccine was continuing to drop with each passing year.
Despite her illness, Laura spent the last remaining months of her life educating others on the importance of the vaccine, appearing on The Late Late Show and urging girls and women to be vaccinated and go for regular smear tests.
Laura died on March 20, 2019, while filming a documentary on her life and work entitled This Is Me, which was released after her death and showed the devastating reality of life with cervical cancer.
Since her death, uptake of the vaccine has risen from just over 50% to 80%, and in her home county of Clare has shot up to 90%.
As a result of her tireless work, the vaccine is now also being offered to boys-- who, while they cannot be tested for HPV, can contract it and pass it on to others.
Today, Laura's family posted on her Twitter account in remembrance of their brave and loving daughter, sister and beloved friend.
"We remember with love our daughter and sister Laura, on this the first anniversary of her passing from us.
The last twelve months has seen the HPV uptake rate nationally increase from the initial drop of 51% to 80%. While in County Clare the increase has been 90%.
In addition the vaccine has been extended to 1st year boys in Secondary Schools.
The support from schools, sporting organisations, businesses and the media towards the HPV Jersey Campaign has exceeded 10,000. The value of the Irish story and Laura’s campaign of awareness as regards [to] the HPV vaccine has been extended to UK, USA, France, Belgium, Denmark & Romania.
The Coronavirus has shown the importance of vaccines and getting your information from reliable sources such as the World Health Organisation, HSE, etc.
We wish to express our thanks to all for your support over the last twelve months.
Please remember Laura in your thoughts and prayers today."
The statement was signed off by her mother Bernie, father Larry, brothers Colin, Fergal and Kevin, and her beloved dog Bailey.
The documentary on Laura's life and activism, This Is Me, can be viewed on RTÉ Player.