Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Catholic school bans cervical cancer jabs

A Catholic school is to refuse to allow girls to have the HPV cervical cancer injections on its premises.

Governors of St Monica's High, in Prestwich, Bury, who in the past have said the jabs encourage sexual promiscuity, say the decision was made on health grounds. The injections are backed by the national Catholic Education Service.





Governor and parish priest Monsignor John Allen last night defended the school's decision.



"This is not a moral judgment on the vaccination", he said.





"It's a question of where this vaccination should be given and how it should be given."





Governors wrote to the parents of Year 8 girls, aged 12 to 13, informing them of their decision.





The letter states that during a pilot study of the vaccine at a local clinic "a number of our girls were either absent from school the day following their vaccination or had to be sent home from school suffering from dizziness, nausea, joint pain, headaches or high temperature."





The governors state they believe that parents "will want to conduct their own research into this vaccination" and accompany their daughter to each of the three appointments to "offer support and assistance should she suffer any side effects".





The letter states: "We do not believe that school is the right place for the three injections to be administered. Therefore, Governors have taken the decision not to allow the school premises to be used for this programme."





It also states the school will release family details to the local primary care trust so they can inform parents about the vaccination programme.





The letter informs parents that the Catholic Education Service has no objections to the programme, but does not address the question of whether the vaccination should be offered in school.





Msgr Allen said: "This matter is primarily a public health issue, not a school issue. That's the reason we came to the decision as governors.





"We're saying it's such an important issue that parents should make that decision in consultation with their family doctor. The school is not to be used for this."





Fr Michael Walsh, spokesman for the Salford Diocese, said: "There is no moral objection to this. The decision whether to allow it in school is the decision of the governing body."





Headteacher Frank McCarron said: "I can't comment on governors' decisions."





A spokesperson for Bury Council said: "Bury Council is aware of the issue regarding St Monica's High School and their concerns about allowing students to be vaccinated with the HPV Vaccine.





"The council views this decision a school matter as each school has the right to make individual decisions regarding issues such as this".





Schools Secretary Ed Balls told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "The Catholic education service said there is nothing in Catholic teaching that says this is wrong.





"This will help hundreds of children whose lives will be saved because of these vaccinations.





"I'm not going to comment on this individual decision of a governing body, I've not looked at it in detail. But in general, the vast majority of schools will be delivering these vaccinations and they will do so to save lives.





"I think schools should be at the centre of their community and I don't think schools walking away from their responsibilities to children's health is the right way to go."





The national vaccination programme protects against two strains of the human papilloma virus which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.





The vaccination programme is due to start this month and is being offered to girls aged 12 to 13 each year.



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