After the Huron-Superior District Catholic School Board rejected administering the anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil in its schools to pre-teen girls, Algoma Public Health attacked the board for what it implied were outright sexist views. The arguments were anti-Catholic and silly, so stale and predictable that APH should have been embarrassed to make them. Noting that females get the human papilloma virus from males who have it, but that males do not face a cervical cancer risk, Algoma Public Health asked, “Why should only the female pay?” An APH press release, which did not have anyone’s name on it, asked, “Has the Catholic school board reacted against HPV vaccine because it is only females who suffer the terrible consequences?”

Get real. The HSDCS said no to the vaccine for two reasons – and public health knows them. First, the vaccine has not proven to be safe for young teens; it has been insufficiently studied. Second, providing the anti-STD vaccine sends mixed signals to teens about the permissibility of premarital sex. On the first point, it is the school board that has put the health interests of teenage girls ahead of ideology. While the public health agency accuses the Catholic school trustees of putting religious teaching ahead of the health of students, the fact is the board considered the health costs and benefits of mass vaccination and concluded that it was not worth the risk. Gardasil has only been tested on about 100 pre-teens, the age cohort that politicians are now proposing to vaccinate en masse. As Maclean’ssays, this is tantamount to transforming an entire generation of girls into guinea pigs.

Furthermore, the notion that a Catholic school board should been unconcerned about the moral health of its students is, at heart, an argument against teaching morality. The past 30 years have been an experiment in morality-free education and part of the consequence of it is an exploding human papilloma virus rate, among other sexually transmitted infections, as well as abortion and teenage pregnancy rates. Algoma Public Health’s attack was a desperate, puerile measure that ought to be ignored, were it not representative of a more widespread mentality. Talk radio elsewhere indicated many in the public hold similar views. The underlying motives seem anti-Christian, but point to other troubling trends, too. Most worryingly, it illustrates society’s susceptability to the snakeoil salesman of the 21st century, who promise quick-fix solutions in a pill. That might be the more troubling trend, because it threatens the ideas of virtue and personal responsibility. And that is the wrong lesson for schools to teach.