Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2008
Two school boards veto Gardasil vaccine
St. Thomas Aquinas and Calgary Catholic will not offer HPV immunization
By RAMON GONZALEZ
“The bishops’ perspective certainly played a role, as it rightly should.”
- Sandra Bannard
HPV can only be transmitted through sexual activity. The Gardasil vaccine protects against the four strains of papillomavirus that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts. Girls in Edmonton schools will begin getting shots in November.
“The bishops’ perspective certainly played a role, as it rightly should,” Bannard said. “We are a Catholic school (division) and I would definitely say it was one of the influences in the minds of trustees as they went to vote on this.”
The St. Thomas Aquinas district has 2,470 students in Leduc, Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Lacombe, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin. Calgary’s Catholic trustees voted six to one Sept. 24 against making the vaccine available.
“We look to our bishop (Fred Henry) for moral guidance and he has indicated that he does not support the Gardasil vaccine offered in the schools,” said Marge Belcourt, chair of the Calgary board.
“He sees this as an spiritual and moral issue, not an education issue. And since it is not an education issue, we don’t feel that it has to be in the schools,” added Belcourt. “The second thing is that we believe that it is a parental choice. Parents are the primary educators and they should make this decision.”
Calgary Catholic has more than 43,000 students in 102 schools. About 3,400 Grade 5 students will be affected by the board’s decision.
“We feel that our job as educators is to give students the bishops’ letter and the information that comes from the health board, not to offer the vaccine (in the schools),” Belcourt said.
It has been said that if parents choose to give the vaccine to their daughters through doctors, it will cost them at least $450. But Bannard disagrees, saying she heard from her own health board that the vaccine will be administered free of charge to all Grade 5 girls, even if it’s done outside the school system.
“If parents choose to have their children vaccinated, they should not be penalized,” said Belcourt. “They should feel they have access to the vaccine. Health Canada says it is available to all (Grade 5 girls).”
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