Ottawa Citizen (09.19.07) - Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Ontario's Catholic education boards are considering whether to
allow eighth-grade girls in their schools to receive the
vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), an STD that is the
cause of most cervical cancer cases.
Last night, the Halton board voted 4-3 to let public health
officials administer the vaccine in board elementary schools.
The Toronto board is set to take up the issue tomorrow, and a
Northern Ontario Catholic board will do so next month. A key
concern is whether the immunizations in effect condone
premarital sex, which is condemned by the Catholic church.
Anthony Danko, the board trustee who proposed barring the HPV
program from Halton schools, said the vaccine's moral
ramifications are chief among his concerns. "It's presuming
that they're going to have sex. This may be the reality, but
it's not a very hopeful attitude," said Danko. "We're teaching
abstinence and on the other hand, we're saying, 'Here's
protection, just in case.'"
Oliver Carroll, chairperson of the Toronto board, dismisses
the notion that offering the HPV vaccine is a tacit vote in
favor of premarital sex. "I can't imagine too many parents
would be encouraging their 13-, 14-year-old children to engage
in sexual activity," he said. "But we recognize the world
around us." Though one or two members of his board object to
the immunizations, it is likely the program will be given the
green light, he said.
The Canadian government allocated $300 million (US $296
million) in the last budget for provincial HPV vaccine
programs. Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince
Edward Island are the first to launch school-based programs to
administer the vaccine.