Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 17, 2008
WCR Letters to the Editor
Lots of reasons to doubt Gardasil’s value
Re: “A Catholic doctor makes the case for Gardasil” (WCR letters, Nov. 3).
I appreciated trustee Dr. Denis Vincent’s rationale for voting to allow the HPV vaccine to be administered to Grade 5 children in the North Central Francophone School Division. It caused me as a former school trustee to reflect on how I would vote were I currently sitting at a board table.
On the one hand, there appears to be an opportunity to facilitate a procedure that may prove to be life-giving for some. On the other hand, in addition to the mixed messages sent to parents and students if the school becomes the venue for the administration of the vaccine, there are important cautions to consider as well.
At least three messages are conveyed if the school hosts the vaccination program: the school endorses the program; the school has low expectations in terms of its young students’ future sexual behaviour and feels compelled to provide them with access to “protection”; the school does not believe that parents are likely to make good decisions around what is essentially a health issue and must therefore make compliance with the Alberta Health initiative as easy as possible.
Caution has been expressed in numerous professional medical journals. In an editorial entitled “HPV Vaccination: More Answers, More Questions,” the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine (May 2007) concludes “On the one hand the vaccine has high efficacy against certain HPV types that cause life-threatening disease, and it appears to be safe. . . .
“On the other hand, a cautious approach may be warranted in light of important unanswered questions about overall vaccine effectiveness, duration of protection and adverse effects that may emerge over time.”
Similar caution is expressed in The Canadian Medical Journal (August 2007) among others.
No test trials have been done on nine to 13 year olds, the target group of the program. The Gardasil monograph states ”efficacy of the vaccine in this age group has not been demonstrated.”
Furthermore, Dr. Diane Harper, the developer of the vaccine, is quoted as saying, ”It is silly to mandate vaccination of 11 to 12 year old girls. There is not enough evidence gathered to know that safety is not an issue.”
Although HPV infections are common, the rate of the targeted HPV infections is probably extremely low. No one knows.
However, an American study found that while the incidence of HPV was higher than expected in the subjects studied (26.9 per cent), only 1.5 per cent were infected with the two types of HPV that have been shown to cause 70 per cent of eventual cervical cancers.
The incidence of cervical cancer in Canada is relatively low; 380 women nationwide are expected to die from cervical cancer in 2008. By way of comparison, 9,200 women are expected to die from lung cancer this year, with numbers rising annually.
Pap screening is already very effective in lowering the rate of cervical cancer. In 1979, the incidence of death by cervical cancer in Alberta was five per 100,000; in 2008 the incidence is projected to be two.
The cost of this universal vaccination program is prohibitive — almost one billion dollars. And vaccination will not lessen the need for Pap screening.
This is a considerable amount of money to possibly prevent a percentage of the already relatively few deaths attributable to cervical cancer. Aggressive Pap screening alone might well prove as effective at much less cost. A strong case could be made that one billion dollars could be better spent elsewhere to improve the overall health of all Canadians.
I applaud the four Catholic school boards which have voted no. That would have been my vote as well.
Gardasil represents poor value for the dollar
Re: “A Catholic doctor makes the case for Gardasil” (WCR letters, Nov. 3).
I find it disturbing that a doctor could recommend the vaccination of girls as young as 12 years old with a product whose safety has not been proven. We have seen enough lives destroyed by the premature use of drugs developed by large pharmaceutical companies. Thalidomide is only one example of that.
By vaccinating these extremely young girls with a potentially dangerous drug, we would be trying to avoid about 400 deaths a year at a cost of about $900 Million. Surely there are other women’s health issues that could use these funds to save a greater number of lives.
The decision about vaccination belongs squarely in the hands of well-informed parents.
Catholic education needs Catholic teachers
As a former teacher in various Catholic schools, I read Glen Argan’s editorial in the Oct. 27 WCR with great interest (“Overcome cultural divide in the Church”). It is indeed “time to call Catholic schools to dedicate themselves more fully to the task of spreading the Good News.” I couldn’t agree more.
There is a problem, though. However good the theory, the practice might as well be on another planet. In the schools in which I taught, it was not unusual for less than half of the staff to be practising Catholics.
The larger portion was made up of “Catholic” teachers who espoused very liberal views concerning co-habitation, pro-choice and other Church teachings, or non-Catholics who may have been active in their faith or may not have practised any faith at all.
I taught with a Mormon for a few years and with a Ba’hai for a few years. These make it difficult for our children to receive the Good News of the Catholic faith.
As an aside, the teachers of my granddaughter’s school, a French immersion school with Edmonton Catholic Schools, have been told that they are to reduce their teaching of religion from 145 minutes per week to 90 minutes per week.
This announcement was made to the teachers just a few days before Catholic Education Sunday.
On paper, Argan’s editorial is right on the money. The practice, however, leaves a great deal to be desired.
Catholic schools are most certainly “fertile grounds for planting the seed for that culture.” The labourers sadly are very few and what time those labourers have for the teaching of the faith risks being taken away from them.
Will we be surprised if a future provincial government does away with Catholic schools and opts for one school system as we have witnessed in other provinces? Not at this rate.
Even living water can get diluted
Re: Editorial: “Overcome Cultural Divide in the Church” (WCR, Oct. 27). “It is time to call Catholic schools to dedicate themselves more fully to the task of spreading the good news.”
Unfortunately, in many Catholic schools, Catholics, non-practising Catholics, non-Catholics, practising Christians and “don’t give a darn students and families” come together in a tenuous collage.
However, I do agree that sharing our faith with those who do not attend or feel disenfranchised is a good idea. Like the Emmaus travellers of old, our hearts will have to burn more from within.
Parents in Catholic schools need to be reminded about their commitment and to answer why they placed their children in Catholic schools in the first place.
Schools and teachers have to look outside the religion class and ask whether they are really permeating their classrooms and the school with Christ-like modelling behaviour and turning on and challenging young people. If they are, then the parents are indeed fertile ground.
Assuming that Catholic teachers do indeed attend liturgies then what is wrong with saying to all — “See you at Church on Sunday.”
Catholic schools have the greatest opportunity to continually feed the lambs with the possibility of the living water.
I suspect that in the 1970s and ‘80s, parents were beginning to no longer understand what was going on. Certainly they had difficulty explaining the Catholic faith to their children.
These children are now parents and I suspect belong to a silent majority where they are not sure anymore and in a lot of cases have stopped attending services. But their children still come to Catholic schools.
I also suspect many parents would love updates on who we are, what our beliefs are and where we are going. This is a great opportunity for Catholic schools.
Retired Catholic school administrator
Married man’s ordination causes rejoicing
The seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing, Marriage, Holy Orders.
I received the sacrament of Baptism on the day of my birth over 78 years ago. Many blessings have come my way as I have received six of the seven sacraments.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is the only one missing on my resume. Mind you, that is a good thing as I have never felt worthy to be the recipient of this most sacred of sacraments, next to the sacrament of Matrimony.
But I rejoiced when I read in the WCR that Deacon Basil Sych, married to Denise and father of three children will soon receive the sacrament of Holy Orders (WCR, Nov. 3).
Basil will be ordained a Ukrainian Catholic priest in the Latin rite cathedral of St. Paul.
Let us all continue to pray storming the heavens (not the Vatican) that some day a Roman Catholic, who is called upon by God to serve in the priesthood, will receive a call from her or his bishop to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Does being Catholic mean voting Republican?
I was disturbed by the article in the front page of your paper of Oct. 27 (“Obama, Democrats under fire for abortion views”). It certainly didn’t clarify anything for me.
I believe that for Catholics who are concerned about following the advice of their Church that article would have led them to think that they had to vote Republican so as not to vote for Obama.
Is this the kind of reasoning that helped George Bush get elected for a second term?
That means that in their state Catholics have to vote for the Republican candidate no matter what they know of him.
We know for instance that Ted Stevens in Alaska was found guilty on seven federal felony charges for failing to properly report gifts worth more than $250,000. Would it have been the duty of a Catholic to vote for him anyway?
There would also not have been any point in asking him his views on the issue of abortion as their duty would have been to vote for the Republican so as not to vote for Obama.
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