Daily Archives: 26 September 2008

Cervical Cancer Jabs

Following on from yesterday’s rant about the Metro and it’s reporting of superstitions I have an honest enquiry about the HPV cervical cancer vaccinations.

The purpose of the jabs is to provide some level of immunity to the papilloma virus which manifests as genital warts and an increased chance of cervical cancer.  The virus is responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers.  It isn’t a replacement for proper screening but should save a few lives anyway.

Putting aside the irresponsible actions of St Monica’s Catholic School who “unanimously came to the conclusion that vaccination against it is a personal matter for parents to decide in consultation with their family doctor and their children.” even though a private course of injections costs around £500.  Putting aside that they claim that it is not a moral issue (it isn’t, it’s a medical issue) the faith based teaching ideals must have had a strong influence on the decision. 

How is it even a moral issue?  I ask this is all seriousness.  It is true that if nobody had sex the virus would be eliminated within a century or if people restricted themselves only to one sexual partner forever.  This would have to be everybody of course, not just the girls at St Monica’s. 

Let’s assume for a moment that it is considered moral to wait till you marry to have sex and that we should encourage that very Victorian idea.  If a male partner has sex with someone else and becomes a carrier of the papilloma virus that transmits to the woman (who only ever had sex with her husband) then she is at risk.  I’m not even talking about unfaithful men here, what about divorce or death?  I would think it very rare for one man and one woman to be exclusive for their entire lives.

I don’t consider it the moral course to place this sort of restriction on people.  Even if I did it would be impractical to enforce.  Not everybody thinks the same after all.  As people will continue to have sex with one another whether I like it or not then we should take steps to ensure that people are not spreading disease through sex.  An immunisation programme seems the obvious limiter here.  Remember that you need only have sex once to get the virus, it isn’t something that only occurs through promiscuity.  That’s just more Victorian thinking.

Returning to my question.  Given that the purpose is to limit the spread of the virus and provide protection from infection by HPV can anyone please explain why boys are not being immunised as well?  True, boys cannot get cervical cancer, the lack of a cervix ensures that, but boys can still carry the virus and spread it.  Wouldn’t immunisation for boys as well as girls make the effectiveness of the vaccine much greater?

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