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Sunday, 28 September 2008

The HPV jab debate

The Governors of St Monica's School in Manchester have taken the decision that the school will not allow the vaccination against the HPV virus to be administered at school and have said that the decision rests with the parents, not the school.

One important consideration is the safety of the vaccine itself. Joe Sowerby draws attention to the fact that the school governors, not local or national government agencies, have the responsibility for the decision whether or not to allow the vaccinations to be carried out at the school. Since pupils have suffered side effects, from the drug, the school took the decision to leave the matter with the parents (See: Catholic Commentary: St Monica's and HPV vaccinations and the more recent post, This and that from the media)

Jackie Parkes has the letter from the School Governors in which the school encourages parents to take their own decision in the matter and to discuss it with their GP who will be aware of their daughter's medical history - and indeed to her if they decide she is to have the vaccination. (Jackie's decision is a definite "No".)

Fr Ray Blake has raised the question on his blog (see: St Monica & HPV vaccine.) Both the post and the comments box are well worth reading. There, the impeccably orthodox and pro-life Paulinus writes in favour of the vaccination since a girl of unimpeachable virtue might marry a man who has a less virtuous past. Lucille suggests in response that either party can be tested for STDs before marriage.

Lifesite news has been following the story with an article on St Monica's and one on the same issue in Scotland.

Predictably, the governors of St Monica's have come under attack. For example, a regional paper has got quotes from some disaffected parents who presumably want the school to take all responsibility for the vaccination. See: Manchester Evening News article Calls for cancer vaccine rethink ("Furious parents are demanding ...")

The school has not received any support in their decision from the Catholic authorities. The Catholic Education Services issued a statement on the HPV vaccination programme in June and official responses have been based on this statement, particularly the following passage:
There is nothing in Catholic teaching to suggest that there is anything wrong with the use of vaccination against this disease, nor does it undermine the Church’s teachings in regard to human relationships and sexual activity.
The word "use" is a slippery one here. The vaccine itself is an inanimate object and cannot undermine the Church's teachings but the circumstances in which it is given and the teaching related to it could undermine them very much indeed without a clear message promoting chastity. Unfortunately, the statement does not deal with the question of the relationship between home and school in this matter, nor about the need for any such programme to be accompanied in a Catholic school by a clear presentation of the Church's teaching on chastity.

The Catholic Bishops of Alberta, Canada, have issued a sensible statement on the matter (see the Western Catholic Reporter article). They emphasise that the decision regarding the vaccine is a parental, not a government matter, and that
Outside of marriage, abstinence is not only clearly the choice that leads to spiritual and moral well-being, but it is obviously the best protection against risks of disease.
Gerald Warner on his blog offers robust support for the school's decision: Catholic school refuses to promote promiscuity via HPV vaccination.

I think he is right to see this in terms of politically correct orthodoxy and the Bishops of Alberta seem to me to have come up with a good and politically aware response.
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