Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 30, 2008
Alta. Bishops cool to gov't promotion of vaccine
Province will offer vaccine to Grade 5 students this fall
Special to the WCR
Young people should be encouraged to delay sexual activity, Alberta's six Catholic bishops say in a June 23 statement about a vaccine intended to prevent HPV.
The bishops encourage parents, as the primary decision-makers about the health care of their children, to promote healthy lifestyles for their teenagers and communicate openly about the serious responsibilities involved in sexual relationships.
They also urge parents to learn the medical facts about Gardasil and its limitations before deciding whether their daughters should receive the vaccine.
Gardasil offers protection from four types of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, two of which are known to cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine has raised ethical questions for Catholic schools in particular because of concerns that while delivering this protection, it may also be delivering an unintended message that casual sex is to be expected on the part of students.
The province will offer the Gardasil vaccine to female Grade 5 students in September and to Grade 9 students in 2009.
Catholic teaching is that sexuality is a God-given gift that should be reserved for marriage.
"It is important that young people be educated about sexuality and sex, as well as learning about sexually transmitted diseases," the bishops say in the message.
"So-called `casual' or `recreational' sexual activity carries with it profound risks to a young person's spiritual, emotional, moral and physical health.
"We note that, at best, a vaccine can only be potentially effective against one of these risks, that to physical health, and may have other unintended and unwanted consequences."
The bishops urge parents, physicians, educators and governing bodies to adopt a health-oriented approach to education that encourages young people to make the healthy choice to delay sexual activity.
The bishops also note that there is no general consensus that that HPV vaccination is the most prudent strategy in terms of allocating the health care resources aimed at preventing deaths from cervical cancer. Further research is needed, they say.