Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Catholic school apparently bans cervical cancer vaccine

A Roman Catholic high school in Bury, Greater Manchester, has decided to not permit its students to be vaccinated against the papilloma virus on its premises. Now the report (from the Manchester Evening News) is purely about a letter, not yet sent to parents, about the decision, and nobody from the school has commented directly on the report, so it is only preliminary.

Now I would defend, vehemently, the right of the school to make this decision. It is the school's property, and parents have the choice whether or not to send their daughters to the school. Furthermore, as the vaccine is taxpayer funded, there should be other options to obtain the vaccination if parents so choose. I do not object to the right to withhold it. This is a libertarian stance - asserting private property rights.

However, as an objectivist, I find the stance itself based on irrational and immoral grounds. It has been reported that the letter announcing the reasons for withholding permission
"points out that the vaccine protects against only 70 per cent of cervical cancers, and gives details of possible side-effects to the jab".

Only 70%!! As opposed to all those vaccinations derived from the Vatican, which has done wonders in fighting cancer over the years. Now the side effects are logical to advise about, but that should then be a question of rational trade off.

The real problem the school has is with sex. "Morally it seems to be a sticking plaster response. Parents must consider the knock-on effect of encouraging sexual promiscuity. Instead of taking it for granted that teenagers will engage in sexual activity, we can offer a vision of a full life keeping yourself for a lifelong partnership in marriage".

So dramatically reducing the risk of a cancer that at best could mean a lengthy period of medical treatment, at worse death, is "encouraging sexual promiscuity". Well then by extension there should be NO vaccinations, indeed there shouldn't even be any drugs or treatment for people with STDs or HIV should there? The threat of cancer discourages sexual promiscuity.

So presumably the school and the church regards those girls who get cervical cancer as sinful, and deserving of their fate - because after all, they should have not sinned because, somehow, that protects you completely from the papilloma virus and cervical cancer. As usual, the wisdom of celibate men on these matters

Is anyone delivering the message that "get this vaccine and you can shag without protection happily"? Of course not. The message is more a case of, here is a vaccine that could possibly save your life. Nobody is saying that the risk of pregnancy has gone or the risk of HIV or other STDs. Who thinks that girls go "hold it, I might get the papilloma virus, I will wait till I'm married". Most who do wait do so for a host of reasons which are emotional and rational, none of which celibate men are really in a place to understand well. Much as they understand a "full life keeping yourself for a lifelong partnership in marriage" - an ideal I think is rather lovely, if it is sustained genuinely rather than by altruistic sacrifice.

However it is more serious than that. Women can get cervical cancer from the papilloma virus without having been sexually promiscuous. Indeed people can get HIV without having been sexually promiscious as well. Yet the school, and by implication the Roman Catholic Church cares not about that. Death apparently isn't so important that the achievements of medical science should be as widely available as possible to delay it.

Moral? Hardly. It is one thing to frighten young girls into fearing an eternity of agony and damnation if they dare wander off a certain path, it is another to deliberately deny them a means to prevent the onset of a fatal disease, so that the threat of that disease can be hanging over them if they wander off that path. So not only do they risk being punished in this life, but having that life shortened as well.

The school has every right to do this, but that does not make it immune from criticism for its apparent motives.


Claire Khaw said...

A CATHOLIC school has become the first in the country to block a project to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer.Governors of St Monica's High School in
Bury - who have previously criticised the jab for `encouraging sexual promiscuity' - have decided they don't want pupils vaccinated on school grounds.The government plans to give injections to girls aged 12 and 13 to protect them against the sexually- transmitted papilloma virus, linked to cervical cancer. Experts believe the programme, which consists of three injections over six months, will eventually save hundreds of lives a year.

Goodness knows where the government is finding the money for this anti-cervical cancer vaccination that no one wants in our Credit Crunchy time.

Perhaps someone in the NHS has "done a deal" with the pharmaceutical company that manufactures this drug?

That it is moral hazard would be the parent's first fear. If this jab is supposed to give immunity from the sexually-transmitted kind of cervical cancer it is meant to prevent, then it would give British schoolgirls - known throughout the world for their promiscuity and unplanned pregnancy - one less reason to keep their knickers on.

To deal with the problem, a government study brightly suggests that schoolchildren should be shown the pleasures oral sex, ie schoolgirls should give schoolboys blowjobs when sex is expected, to avoid unwanted teenage pregnancy.

This sounds remarkably like a society that is about to lose all its marbles in pursuit of sexual gratification.

Why is the single-minded pursuit of sexual gratification to the exclusion of everything else a Bad Thing?

For those of us who have not had lessons about the Birds and the Bees, I will explain briefly.

Having it off whenever, wherever with whoever, leads to unplanned pregnancy.

Unplanned pregnancy leads to illegitimacy and there is already a lot of it about.

In 1993, just over a third – 34.5 per cent – of all births in Britain occurred outside of wedlock, already high by European standards. When Murray looked at the British underclass in 1989, he made a conservative estimate that by 1999, on a linear trend, more than 40 per cent of births would be to single women.

He was right. According to the latest figures from the ONS, by 2004, this had
grown to 42 per cent (the equivalent US figure was 35 per cent). This is an
exceptional rise. It is likely on this trend that the majority of all babies produced in Britain in a decade will be born to single or unmarried mothers. They already are in Wales, and in a host of other places you care to name across Britain: in Sunderland, Newcastle, Manchester, Nottingham, Dundee, Glasgow, Stoke, Norwich, Plymouth, Weymouth and Belfast. In Hartlepool, Blackpool, Liverpool and Lincoln, the illegitimacy rates are already over 60 per cent. Figures also confirm that pregnancy is no longer seen as a trigger for marriage. In 1992, 27,200 girls aged 15-19 were married and by 2003, this had more than halved to just 11,700; this at a time when the birth rate amongst single women under twenty remained stable at roughly 25 per 1,000. A similar pattern has occurred in older age groups. The result is that more babies are being born outside of marriage, and more children are growing up without a stable parental relationship.

Why is bastardy a Bad Thing?

The evidence has long shown us that teenage pregnancy and illegitimacy is encouraged by welfare, and absent fathers and single mothers damage children’s emotional and psychological development, often permanently. Dozens of social science and economic research papers have been published in the US since the 1970s proving these points, including one of the most influential, by Mikhail Bernstam of the Hoover Institution at Stanford in 1988, that showed that childbearing by young unmarried women increased by 6 percent in response to a 10 percent increase in monthly welfare benefits; among blacks, the increase could be as high as 10 percent (Mikhail S. Bernstam, “Malthus and Evolution of the Welfare State: An Essay on the Second Invisible Hand, Parts I and II”, Hoover Institution,1988).

While there have been some studies that argue the causality is unclear or there is no net impact overall, there has never been a paper which proves that welfare actually promotes marriage and the maintenance of stable families, nor any that show that children benefit from being born into broken homes. The consensus is that out-of-wedlock birth and growing up in a single-parent family means the child tends to experience retarded cognitive development; lower educational achievement; lower job attainment; increased behaviour and emotional problems; lower impulse control; and retarded social development.

Unsurprisingly, such children are far more likely to engage in early sexual activity; have children out of wedlock; be on welfare as adults; and engage in criminal activity.

How very interesting that the state should be paying good money to encourage precisely the very activity that will make teenage pregnancy more likely.

What sort of message does this free anti-cervical cancer vaccine give British schoolgirls?

Let me venture to put it together in way even a sink-school educated British schoolgirl can understand:

No need to worry about getting sexually-transmitted cervical cancer after your jab.
Keep right on f*cking.

Is this the sort of message we want to give to the mothers of the next generation of British criminals?

Stephanie said...

Anon, you seem to have missed one vital biology lesson: unprotected sex leads to pregnancy, not a vaccination for cervical cancer.

And just out interest what is your message to teenage boys since clearly these girls aren't knocking themselves up.

Claire Khaw said...

I am quite aware that unprotected sex leads to pregnancy.

Vaccinating schoolgirls would give them the message that, if they were on the pill and having unprotected sex, they would be proteced from the cervical cancer virus.

This would be a disinhibiting factor, and there is already quite enough teenage pregnancy around, as you are probably aware.

Control female promiscuity and you will control male promiscuity.

The financial penalties of having their earnings garnished until their unwanted child is adult could be pointed out to boys, if they inadvertently fathered a child, when all they wanted was sex.

The father in the UK cannot insist that the mother have an abortion.

He has to pay for the child without necessarily being allowed to see it.

Could this be discouragement enough? Is it even pointed out in sex education classes? Probably not!

ZenTiger said...

Liberty, this is the action of one school, or more accurately the governors of one school, who outlined a series of reasons for keeping the vaccination off school grounds:

It does not mention any moral objections, but speaking about the pilot scheme last year, school governor Monsignor John Allen said pupils were being used as `guinea pigs'...

The school's stance comes despite support for the injections from the Salford Diocese and the Church nationally.

You may wish to whip yourself into a frenzy over the Vatican, but this isn't the story to do it.

ZenTiger said...

Furthermore, here is some more accurate background on the 70% figure:

A routine immunisation programme for human papillomavirus (HPV) started across the UK on 1 September 2008 for 12–13-year-old girls (school year 8).

The vaccine given is called Cervarix, which protects against infection with HPV types 16 and 18.

Infection with HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Genital infection with a high-risk (or ‘oncogenic’—potentially cancer-causing) HPV virus is the main cause of cervical cancer and is responsible for nearly 3000 cases of cervical cancer every year in the UK: HPV types 16 and 18 cause around 70% of cases.

Please note that this particular vaccine targets the strains of HPV typically gained through sexual promiscuity, genital contact etc.

Note that even though these strains lead can to cancer, this is still rare and cases tend to clear themselves within 2 years. This must be balanced against possible side effects, which will certainly be better understood after the mass vaccine campaigns kicking off across the UK.

The vaccine requires three shots within 6 months and lasts maybe 6 years.

I read somewhere there is around a 92% uptake from parents with under 14 year old girls, from areas in the first trials. I think about 60% of those complete the course of three.

Libertyscott said...

Fair point Zen, not the Vatican. Though I share ex.expats view that it is interesting that there is less effort paid to encouraging boys to be responsible compared to girls.

As I said it is up to the school, and while I don't support the NHS - it should be a debate on reason, and not inoculating against a disease is morally difficult from my point of view.

ZenTiger said...

Agree. It's rather hypocritical to focus disproportionate attention on girls.

In one sense, they often bear an unfair share of the consequences of casual sex, but it takes two to tango, and boys are no less capable than girls in terms of the need to learn self control, respect for others and an understanding of their responsibilities.

I note the Church nationally is supporting this initiative. As for the inoculation, I respect whatever decision parents make about giving it, providing the parents research the issue and put some serious thought into their decision.

I know of vaccine damaged children, and I think safety and efficacy can be overstated by the drug companies. That being said, I have not heard much in terms of bad reactions with Cervarix. I hope it stays that way following the campaign.