No vaccine for Catholic schoolgirls

Catholic schools in Yellowknife won’t provide the HPV shots

No vaccine for Catholic schoolgirlsIn a 5-2 vote, the Yellowknife Catholic school board has decided against allowing human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination shots in its institutions. This will make it more difficult for girls to get the shots, increasing their risk for the sexually transmitted infection, which is the primary cause of cervical cancer. “This is not ideal for the work of public health,” says Sandy Lee, minister of health and social services for the Northwest Territories.

In Calgary’s Catholic schools, where the board refused to allow the shots, only one in five girls has been vaccinated against HPV (70 per cent of girls in public schools have received the shots). A similar situation could occur in Yellowknife, where girls are sexually active earlier than in most of Canada, and the rate of STIs is eight times the national average.

But Mary Vane, chair of Yellowknife’s Catholic school board, says those risks are outweighed by the right of parents to make decisions about their children’s health. “The only way to really ensure that the parents are in fact making that decision totally is to have [the shots] at public health.”

Of course, the board allows other vaccination shots, such as meningitis and hepatitis C, to be given in schools. And Rose-Marie Jackson, the school board’s vice-chair, who voted to allow the immunizations, said a phone hotline or education campaign could provide parents with what they need to make informed decisions. “I strongly feel that we need to see this as an opportunity to combine the values of our faith with the science of a sound public health measure,” she wrote in a motion to the board.

In any case, Lee says her ministry will continue to get shots to anyone who wants them, even without the participation of Catholic schools. “We are small and we can get to those Catholic girls and parents in other ways,” she says. “We need to step up our efforts to get to as many of them as possible.”




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No vaccine for Catholic schoolgirls

  1. Couple of points for you here Henheffer.

    (1) Other vaccinations offered in the schools are for diseases that are readily contagious and which therefore pose a risk to all the schoolchildren if one refuses the vaccination. This vaccination does not have that collective imperative; rather it can be decided on an individual basis without putting anyone else at risk. So your "Of course, the board allows other vaccination shots, such as meningitis and hepatitis C, to be given in schools" is a false comparison.

    (2) The real figure of merit is not how many girls are vaccinated in each school system as per your second paragraph. It's how many girls end up with HPV. If you can show that Catholic schoolgirls end up with higher rates, then you've got an argument. Until then you're assuming that the lesser vaccination rate isn't outweighed by smarter sexual behaviour.

    Your article would have been a lot better (and fairer) with these considerations included.

  2. Couple of thoughts for you here Henheffer.

    (1) Other vaccinations offered in the schools are for diseases that are readily contagious and which therefore pose a risk to all students and staff if one refuses the vaccination. This vaccination does not have that collective imperative; rather it can be decided on an individual basis without putting anyone else at risk. So your "Of course, the board allows other vaccination shots, such as meningitis and hepatitis C, to be given in schools" is a false comparison.

    (2) The real figure of merit is not how many girls are vaccinated in each school system as per your second paragraph. It's how many girls end up with STDs. If you can show that Catholic schoolgirls end up with higher rates, then you've got an argument. Until then you're assuming that the lesser vaccination rate isn't outweighed by smarter sexual behaviour.

    Your article would have been a lot better (and fairer) with these considerations included.

    • You're right: Let's wait. Let's wait and see if Catholic schoolgirls end up with higher rates of HPV. That seems wise. Nevermind that these vaccinations are readily available. Nevermind that it's better to be safe than sorry. And, especially, nevermind that the only real argument that Catholics have against this vaccination is that it does not fall into accord with 2000-year-old fairy tales, the writers of which had no knowledge of HPV vaccinations. Let's just wait, for no logical or moral reason, and see how many girls get this disease. Hell, let's wait even longer and see how many get cancer!

      If the "values of…faith" are the only things standing in the way of safely protecting children from the risk of a very dangerous disease, then it is the faith that must be questioned, not the vaccination. The faith has no science behind it, no numbers behind it, no facts behind it. You are merely perpetuating this rotten and stinking carcass of an institution.

      • You seem far too eager to equate this as simply a faith versus science debate. There is a larger question regarding how we socialize our children. If we socialized them in a manner that sends the message we are protecting them against sexually transmitted diseases, some will definitely get the wrong message from those efforts. So if the balance on the merits of the vaccine are questionable to begin with from strictly a medical position, we should definitely also consider the mistaken perceptions some children will form by the action.

        Clearly, you have some hostility issues that have nothing to do with the actual vaccine issue.

      • Parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools – it is not a requirement. I know many kids from 'catholic' families who are attending public schools. If parents are sending their children to a Catholic school it is probably because they believe in the tenets of the faith and believe that the school is one more place for faith to be discussed and practiced. This is part of that faith. I don't know of any study that examines the pregnancy rates of high school students going to public school vs Catholic schools – so at this point it is irrelevant.

        The trouble I have with this whole vaccine is that it creates a false sense of security – there are other viruses that contribute to cervical cancer that this vaccine does nothing about and I fear that women will not go and get a pap smear because they think the vaccine is protection. And more to the point, will the viruses causing cancer and attacked by this vaccine morph into something else? As well, Pap smears are one of the cheapest and more effective ways to detect early cervical cancer – while I think our Canadian health care system is generally crap, it does offer preventative tests such as pap smears. Governments have bought into this vaccine as a magic bullet with little real thought about long-term effects. Typical, but sad.

    • .."the rate of STI's is 8 times the national average"…

  3. For your information… there is NO hepatitis C vaccine. There is one for Hepatitis B, but NOT Hepatitis C… once you have Hepatitis C… it’s yours for life. The Hepatitis C virus continually mutates and has defeated all attempts at creating a vaccine. Please get your facts right. It is hard enough trying to raise awareness of Hep C without adding journalistic carelessness to the mix.

    • Sorry, Tracy. Hep C responds to oral intake of Vitamin C in the range of 3 to 6 grams daily.
      Murata, A., (Saga University), Japan. "Virucidal Activity of Vitamin C (Tokyo University Press) 1975.
      Also I.V. vitamin C. See American College for Advancement in Medicine.

  4. To Yellowknife Catholic School…..excellent choice!

    Vaccines carry dangerous side-effects. What causes cervical cancer is not HPV; it is a body system that is weakened to the point of not resisting disease.

    • Profoundly ignorant comment. Please illustrate us on the side effects of the HPV vaccine, and let us know the risk-benefit evaluation you've conducted.

  5. As a former Catholic schoolgirl, I can assure you that most of us do not abstain from premarital sex, far from it.

    • Having attended several Catholic schools, I can assure you that your experience is not representative of all of them.

    • Having attended several Catholic schools, I can assure you that your experience is not representative of all of them. At best it may be representative of the Ontario Catholic School Board, but those are essentially public schools with a Catholic name and some light sociology classes attached.

    • Having attended several Catholic schools, I can assure you that your experience is not representative of all of them. At best it may be representative of the Ontario Catholic School Boards, but those are essentially public schools with a Catholic name and some light sociology classes attached.

      • How long ago did you attend Catholic school? Are you implying that exposure to religious doctrine results in fewer adolescents engaging in pre-marital sex? Do some research on George W. Bush's legacy of abstinence-only education in the US and the mess this has made. Teen pregnancy rates in the US have been on the increase over the past 8 years courtesy of his dogma! This after years of steady decline.

    • I don't care if you have premarital sex, but are you protecting yourself from pregnancy as well as STDs (and the virus causing this cancer) through the use of condoms. Rather than relying on a vaccine as a magic bullet.

      • Sadly, condoms do not always protect against HPV infection. Skin-to-skin contact in places that are not covered by condoms put people at risk for transmission of the virus. This includes activity other than intercourse. Second and third base put you at risk as well, and is one of the reasons HPV is one of the first STDs that people come into contact with early in their sexual lives.

  6. Good for the Catholic Bd of Ed. for showing viscera and suggesting the NWT govt. fly a kite in an electric storm.
    What's sinister, is commentary from from Minister Lee suggesting the long tentacles of government can "get to those Catholic girls and parents in other ways." And the bleeding hearts cried fowl over waterboarding!

  7. I booked an appointment with my family dr to help with the kids math homework. Unfortunately, he was useless at math. He was, however able to give my girls a HPV shot (three actually).

    How about letting schools teach math and let parents and doctors handle the medical needs of the kids.

  8. Here in manitoba the girls vaccinated must be in grade 6. So my daughter in grade 7 doesn't qualify, which angers me.
    I wish these vaccinations were given by a family doctor as then we could access this then. As a single mother I find it difficult to afford the series of vaccinations that are required on a financial basis. But my daughter will be receiving the shots when I can save up. I just haven't managed to accrue that kind of money yet.
    I think these vaccinations will save lives in the future and I don't see the point of the whole H1N1 flu shot thing. Its hogwash what the provinces decide to cover and what they don't. Nothing against seniors but the government spends billions keeping the older folks who are sometimes in bad health alive, but they aren't going to be protective of all the young girls who are younger than 6th grade, at least here in MB. They have a whole lifetime ahead of them but the government isn't protecting them or treating them with the same care as the seniors get with the yearly flu shot. Where's the fairness here???

  9. The HPV shot is a scam anyway – it's not a cure for cancer, just for genital warts. And not even all types.

    HPV is incredibly common – most grown women who have unprotected sex have had HPV with no effect. A smallish number of that same group will come down with genital warts. I grant you that's pretty unappealing — but generally can be caught and treated by your GP in the course of regular exams.

    A very tiny number of women who contract HPV and which develops into genital warts will go on to develop cervical cancer. You may look on the preventative value of a vaccine against this as worthwhile however this vaccine does not guard against all types of HPV and so it's value is even less.

    Finally, Merck pharmaceuticals had not even tested this vaccine on young girls before the mass vaccinations began. I would advise parents to google Merck and Vioxx before deciding whether to trust their good word as to the safety of their product.

    The best prevention remains 1) use condoms and 2) regular PAP tests for sexually active girls and women.

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