Church drops its objections to girls’ cancer jabs – but at a cost

Girls in Catholic schools will be offered jabs against cervical cancer under a controversial deal agreed between the Church and health chiefs. But in return for the concession, the Church is demanding that there is no accompanying sex education material.

Originally, the Church had banned the jabs being given in its schools, saying they would encourage promiscuity. It has now made a U-turn and agreed to the immunisations on the proviso that girls are not told about “artificial contraception” – particularly condoms.

A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association (FPA) said it was a missed opportunity. Chief executive of the FPA Julie Bentley said: “The HPV vaccination will only protect young women from two strains of HPV leading to cervical cancer. It is critically important that young people understand the need to use condoms to protect them from other STIs.”

Scotland Patients’ Association chairwoman Margaret Watt said: “This message should be highlighted and underlined – please remember this injection doesn't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant.”

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, said parents would be annoyed by the omission. She said: “The moral position is being imposed upon them. It seems a bit archaic to let the Catholic Church decide on this.” Cervical cancer kills 100 women in Scotland each year.

See also: Girls not told: you have a choice

22 August 2008