HPV vaccine not as effective as abstinence, B.C. bishop tells parents

Parents of girls attending Catholic schools in Prince George, B.C. have been sent a letter from the city's bishop suggesting that abstinence is "the only truly healthy choice" in combating the sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

Prince George bishop's letter was sent home with vaccination consent forms

A Prince George bishop says girls in the city's Catholic schools must have parental permission before getting the HPV vaccine. (CBC)

Parents of girls attending Catholic schools in Prince George, B.C. have been sent a letter from the city's bishop suggesting that abstinence is "the only truly healthy choice" in combating the sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

The Rev. Stephen Jensen's letter accompanied a vaccination consent form, sent to parents of girls in Grades 6 and 9.

"You need to carefully discern the merits of having your child vaccinated or not," the letter states. "While the vaccination program is not inherently wrong, parents need to make an informed decision and communicate it in a way that can serve to strengthen their child in the virtue of chastity and reinforce her appreciation of abstinence as the only truly healthy choice."

No choice for students

The HPV vaccination is offered to all girls in Grades 6 and 9 in B.C., who are entitled under the mature minor consent provision, to agree to have the vaccine administered, without their parents' permission.

Jensen states in the letter that Prince George catholic schools will not adhere to that provision, and will only allow the vaccine to be administered on parental consent.

Sexual health educator Kristen Gilbert told CBC News that she found the letter troubling.

"I think we're giving the message that anything to do with sex is bad, and that sexual decision making is not the right of the individual, but the right of the people who perceive themselves to be in charge," she said.

The HPV vaccine is designed to combat strains of the virus known to cause most cervical cancers, along with some other cancers and most genital warts.

Read the full letter

With files from Audrey McKinnon