HPV vaccine to be made available free to women under 25

The HPV vaccine is to be made available free to all women under 25 to reduce cervical cancer rates the Minister for Health has confirmed.

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Minister Stephen Donnelly has told the Irish Examiner he has written to the HSE telling it to outline a vaccination programme for women and a catch-up programme for girls and boys in secondary schools who missed out during the pandemic.

This follows new advice received from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to “prioritise” women under 25 and current second-level students for the vaccine.

The late Ennis woman Laura Brennan had campaigned for the vaccine to be made available throughout her own illness and her willingness to share her own personal story for the good of others resulted in an uptake rate of 70%. Her contribution is immeasurable and her legacy will continue way into the future.

This important work has also helped to shape the Covid-19 vaccine campaign in Ireland where almost 90% of those eligible to receive the vaccine are vaccinated.

Laura contacted the HSE in September 2017. At 25, after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cervical cancer, she wanted to advocate publicly in favour of the HPV Vaccine

She was determined that every parent in Ireland who was about to make the decision whether their child was to be vaccinated, would hear her story first.

“This illness is devastating and it’s going to take my life but the good news is there’s a vaccine that you can get that prevents it. HPV caused my cancer. I just wanted parents to know there is an alternative,” Laura said at the time.

Laura’s brother Kevin welcomed the news on Twitter saying: ‘Fantastic news coming through this evening that the HPV vaccine is to be made freely available to all women under 25. One step closer to eradicating HPV related cancers in Ireland. Laura would be smiling tonight if she was still with us.”

Kevin also said: “Thank you @DonnellyStephen and all the other politicians, public health representatives and advocates who have campaigned for this over the past years. This decision will undoubtedly save many lives.”

Clare Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway, his party’s spokesperson for Health in the Seanad, has also welcomed the news.

He said this morning: “The decision by government to remove all cost barriers to accessing the HPV vaccine is very welcome news. The HPV vaccine saves lives and the more women who are vaccinated the more lives that will be saved.  The cost of receiving the HPV vaccine for women who missed out on it when offered at school was anywhere between €400 – €600 which is very expensive and has been a barrier preventing women from getting vaccinated.

“Since starting my campaign to have all costs removed, I have engaged with many teenage women and their families who wanted to get the HPV vaccine but simply couldn’t afford it.  Now they will be able to get their vaccine.

“The late Laura Brennan dedicated the latter period of her short life encouraging young women and their families to get the HPV vaccine.  Her parents have continued this campaign. I know that they were very concerned about the cost associated with the catch-up programme and considered it a major barrier to achieving the goal of full vaccination.  I spoke to Larry Brennan, Laura’s dad, last night and the Brennan family welcome this development.

“Now that the HPV vaccine is free, we should be ambitious in our targets in getting every woman in this country under 25 vaccinated. I would encourage any young woman who has not received the HPV vaccine to now do so,” concluded Senator Conway.

The late HPV campaigner Laura Brennan – Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has also paid tribute to the advocacy work of the late Laura Brennan in ensuring that women under the age of 25 will now be able to receive the HPV vaccine free-of-charge.

“This is a really significant development that will help reduce the rates of cervical cancer by removing a cost of up to €600 for girls and boys who missed out on the vaccination at school. They can now avail of a catch-up vaccine without any concern about the cost,” Deputy Carey explained.

“It will make a real difference and is a fitting testament to the bravery, determination and tireless advocacy of Ennis HPV campaigner Laura Brennan and her family who have enhanced her legacy for generations of Irish women,” he said.


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