Thursday, 25 September 2008

St Monica's and HPV vaccinations

"School bans girls from cancer jab" is the headline on the BBC news website report of the decision of the governors of a Catholic school in Manchester not to let their school premises be used a s a location for the vaccination of Year 8 (12-13 year old) girls against the HPV virus. The first line of the report then states that the Roman Catholic School has banned its girls from receiving the vaccination.

The following is from the text of that same BBC news report (my observations in [brackets] and my emphasis in bold):

Advice from the Roman Catholic Church [ie from the Catholic Education Service] says there is nothing wrong with allowing the cervical cancer vaccinations to be given. But governors at St Monica's - which has 1,200 pupils - have sent a letter to parents outlining their concerns about the vaccine. In it, they question the effectiveness of the injections and point out the possible side effects.

The letter says a number of the school's pupils who took part in a pilot study were subsequently off school suffering from nausea, joint pain, headaches and high fevers.

It states: "We do not believe that school is the right place for the three injections to be administered. Therefore, governors have taken the decision not to allow the school premises to be used for this programme."
I understand from yesterday's broadcast media coverage that the governor's letter goes on to say that the appropriate mechanism for the girls to receive the vacccination is through their GP's in the company of parents or guardians - where due care can be taken with regard to the girls previous medical history and side effects which may occur. This hardly constitutes a "ban" on the part of the school.

So far as I can see from the BBC report, the school has had an experience of its pupils suffering significant side effects during a trial of the vaccination, has carried out a risk assessment in response to that, and the position outlined in the governors' letter represents a prudent set of precautions arising from that risk assessment. Any school in the same position as St Monica's would have been wise to take the same course of action, in response to what for that school are forseeable consequences of allowing the vaccinations to take place at school.

Ah, the wonders of spin ....

An interesting sub-text is that of the relationship between schools and national authorities. The local authority for St Monica's school has recognised, according to the BBC report, that the decision to allow or not to allow the vaccinations to be carried out at school is one for the school itself. But how many schools really do exercise their own decision making power, rather than just "nodding" yes to national guidance and programmes? The question here is of how far schools are organisations of civil society rather than just organs of the state, a question with very wide ramifications.


Joe said...

Interesting to look at some news coverage today (Thursday). Public health officials in the local authority in which St Monica's school "lives" are joining in with the "irresponsible school" propaganda. Whereas, and I looked again at the original BBC web site report to check, their educational officials seem to more recognise the right of the school to exercise its own responsibility in the matter.

Today's Times reports an avalanche of criticism of St Monica's ... including Mgr John Allen's observation made a few months ago that young girls were being used as guinea pigs in relation to this matter (reference to the trials?)

Anonymous said...

zero saysI don't know if my comment got through ignore this if it did .
I don't know if the Rubella and BCG are given in schools these days. There is the danger that some parents, for various reasons, don't arrange to have these done yet we believe them to be beneficial.
Do we know if this school arranges other vaccinations? Also, any vaccine- eg the flu vaccine- may cause mild side effects and children of this age may perceive a "side effect".
Up to when a child starts school Health visitors encourage uptake of vacccinations and "chase" parents up if they do not attend. I read today that there has been 1000 cases of measles because of none compliance with having
the MMR vaccine.

miss book said...

What are the statistics for girls who do not engage in extra-marital sex and who marry a man who does not engage in extra-marital sex ?

Anonymous said...

Miss book that would be very interesting to know!