Publicly elected officials with Calgary’s Catholic school board stayed away from discussion of vaccinating children against a dangerous virus at a meeting Wednesday, seemingly setting the stage for legal recourse in the process.
But Mary Martin, trustee board chair for the Calgary Catholic School District, was quick to point out that the organization will assist parents wishing to utilize the human papiloma virus (HPV) vaccination program offered by Alberta Health Services.
“We recognize that this is a very emotional issue for people,” Martin added. “Not everybody’s going to be happy.”
HPV is widely regarded as a leading cause of cervical cancer and nearly every metropolitan Catholic board across Canada has adopted a school-based vaccination program.
Advocacy group HPV Calgary, which is made up primarily of concerned medical professionals and parents, had said if introducing such a program locally was not put to a public vote during a meeting of the board of trustees Wednesday, it would launch a fundraising campaign to challenge the stance in court.
Spokesperson Juliet Guichon said she found Wednesday night’s events — or lack thereof — “deeply disappointing.”
“Why is it so difficult to encourage a school board to co-operate with public health in the interests of children, particularly disadvantaged children, to help prevent cancer?” she said.
- The Calgary Catholic School District’s position on the HPV vaccine is gained from district spiritual leader, Bishop Fred Henry, who did not return a request for comment Wednesday. He has maintained in the past that introducing the vaccine promotes promiscuity among adolescents.
- To assist parents further, CCSD has increased the number of languages in which it offers HPV-related materials, and expanded a frequently asked questions section on its website, cssd.ab.ca.