Catholic parents to be consulted on HPV vaccine in schools

Calgary's Catholic school board in Calgary may be a step closer to offering the HPV vaccine.

Calgary Catholic school board doesn't offer controversial human papillomavirus shot

The Calgary Catholic school board revisits its decision against HPV vaccinations. 1:52

Calgary's Catholic school board is revisiting if they will offer HPV vaccines in its schools.

The board agreed Wednesday night to begin surveying parents on their thoughts about the controversial vaccine.

Girls in Calgary public schools can already receive the human papillomavirus shot, but girls in the Calgary Catholic School District don't have the option.

The vaccine, normally administered in Grade 5, helps prevent against diseases and even the development of cervical cancer by stopping a virus transferred mainly through sexual contact.

"We're concerned about our kids," said parent Calvin Vass. "I definitely think that is something that should be offered to all kids, for sure. The school board needs to take a look at the health of the kids before the actual religious part of it."

Another parent, Alexandra Espinoza, says it's preventative, so anything that helps is a good thing.

"I think you can combine both — your ethical and moral values — with really trying to help girls and their decisions," she said. 

Legal threat

Pro-vaccination group HPV Calgary has threatened to take legal action against the school board for not offering the shot.

Juliet Guichon said she’s optimistic the parent survey will lead Catholic schools to offer the vaccine.

"I'm hoping that the trustees are appreciating how serious this matter is that people will get sick and 16,000 children who were deprived of easy access to the vaccine, some of those people will get sick and a few of them will die."

Guichon said school immunizations are the most effective and cost-efficient method of providing vaccinations to kids.

Support from Bishop

Local Bishop Fred Henry says he supports the Catholic board's decision although he has said in the past  the vaccine might compromise the church's teachings on chastity.

In a written statement the Bishop said he still believes the original decision to not provide the vaccine is the right course of action.

"However, given … the lack of a consistent policy and practice by Catholic school districts in our province, concerns, diffrerences of opinion, divisions and threats of legal action, I am also supporting the recent motion," said Bishop Henry on Wednesday.

The consultation with parents will start in a few weeks.