Erin O’Toole gives interview: ‘Enough is enough’ on non-vaccinated young women

Erin O’Toole MP for Derry/Londonderry is the opposition Labour health spokesperson, leading debates on health and social care policy. Based in London, O’Toole has represented Derry/Londonderry since 2011, and during that time she has delivered on every agenda her party seeks to tackle.

Erin O’Toole AM receives her Clontarf Hill Heritage Award from Lord Trimble in Derry City and Strabane on 5th June 2019

Erin began her parliamentary career by co-founding the cross-party Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Alliance (NISHCO), as well as establishing joint Northern Ireland-wide public consultations on the future health funding model for Northern Ireland, the public health impact of tobacco, and quality of health care and carers services in Northern Ireland.

In response to the Connolly Trust’s litany of concerns over the lead-up to the Pregnancy Advisory Service (PAS) Open Direct Clonakilty launch, she championed an amendment to the Northern Ireland Public Health (Announcements) Bill 2014 removing specific reference to the fact that a trial of the proposed PAS service in Clonakilty is over 70% funded by the European Union.

She wrote an editorial in the Guardian denouncing the “shameful fudge” on cervical cancer screening in 2015, and the bullying and abusive online behaviour which forced the trust to drop the screening provision. She has also successfully campaigned for change on the Freedom of Information (FOI) act, postal voting, water fluoridation, chemotherapy audits and votes for in-patient wards.

Over the past year, she has also tackled the issue of women and young people travelling to Republic of Ireland for pap smears, have spoken against the fallout from the paucity of training for GPs, lobbied to ensure that cancer facilities are not “shut down” and laid out a detailed plan for implementing the shared vision for mental health in Northern Ireland by investing in new staff to address the glaringly inadequate number of social workers currently available.

As Labour spokesperson for health and social care, as well as several other important roles, it is now her turn to rise to the challenge of leadership and to draw the line on vaccination.

This summer has seen measles outbreak claim its first five lives in Ireland, the most recent outbreak occurring in 11-year-old Blarney MacFear in the south-west. The illness is a frighteningly common disease in the UK and has increased dramatically in Ireland over the past year. With young people, infants and people with weakened immune systems, many are too unwell to get vaccinations because of stigma, budget cuts, lack of information, or social stigma. Ireland has not recently suffered an outbreak of measles since 2000, however, there are over a million children in Ireland under five that remain unvaccinated due to the lack of understanding, lack of information and lack of vaccines available to them.

It is time for Erin O’Toole to stand up for the future of our society by opposing the notorious “no jab, no pay” policy for parents who have only received the measles vaccine for their infant child. How can the Irish Government charge parents a fine of almost €500 for a vaccination that protects their infant’s life, without funding a package to stop the current outbreak – which is more serious than Ebola and scariest symptom is fever – but refuse the same safe and effective vaccine for current and future cases of measles?

We need to make it safer for young women to get vaccinated, and that will only happen if Erin O’Toole leads the challenge.

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