Health Minister Ron Liepert said Monday he would like to see more of Alberta's Grade 5 girls receive the HPV vaccine.
Only about 30 per cent of Grade 5 girls in Calgary's Catholic schools have received the HPV vaccine, compared with about 70 per cent of Grade 5 girls in public schools, according to Alberta Health Services.
Last year, the province launched a campaign to immunize Grade 5 girls against the human papillomavirus, which can be transmitted through sexual contact and can cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine was delivered through Alberta schools, but Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of the Calgary diocese, said it wouldn't be appropriate in Catholic schools, because it would encourage premarital sex.
Calgary Catholic School District trustees refused to allow the clinics in its schools, so the province distributed the vaccine through community clinics. Liepert said there isn't much more the government can do to encourage parents to have their daughters vaccinated.
"At the end of the day, it's a parental choice," Liepert said Monday. "I mean, it's a parental choice in the public school system, too. However, I think that I would just again strongly encourage parents to do the research and take a look at all of the facts, and then they have to make the call."
More costly to treat cancer later in life
Henry also said it's up to parents to decide.
"Sometimes, you are listened to, and sometimes, you're not," he said. "So in this case, it looks like we did find a credible audience. They listened to us, and hopefully we're going to be the better for it."
Juliet Guichon, a medical bioethicist, said however that everyone has a stake in the HPV vaccinations, because they prevent cancer and save lives. She said it's a lot more expensive to treat a cancer later in life.
"If it can be prevented by a vaccine which can be administered at relatively low cost in school, why wouldn't the public want that to happen?"
The government says the vaccine will be available province-wide to girls in Grades 5 and 9 this fall, but it won't force Catholic schools to participate.
Alberta Health Services initially told CBC News last week that about 25 per cent of Grade 5 girls in Calgary's Catholic schools received the vaccine but on Monday, it provided figures which suggest the number is closer to 30 per cent.