By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories, October 15, 2009 ( – The Yellowknife Catholic School Board (YCS) voted last night to reject a proposal to inject all its female students from Grades 4 to 12 with the controversial human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine known as Gardasil.

The motion to initiate a school-based vaccination program was decisively shut down by a vote of 5 to 2.

According to a Northern News Service report, trustees on both sides of the issue agreed that the school board and its trustees were not qualified to make scientific and medical decisions and that parents should have the ultimate say in whether their daughters are vaccinated.

Board chair Mary Vane said the risks of getting cervical cancer from HPV have been “greatly overstated,” and the safety of the vaccine would not be determined for several years to come.

Health Canada's website states that the vaccine is only credited for having preventative qualities for up to 5 years and that the vaccine “does not provide protection against any of the other high or low-risk types of HPV.” As well, the Canadian Medical Association journal has printed an article asserting that pap-smear tests are preferable to the HPV vaccine for cervical cancer prevention.

Trustees with the Calgary Catholic School District and the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Board near Edmonton, who earlier this year also rejected the HPV vaccination program for their schools, cited safety concerns as well. The two school systems also pointed to the negative message that administering a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease gives the students.

St. Thomas Aquinas board chair Sandra Bannard explained her board's concerns: “When a school board or anyone else allows something to go on in their schools, it's almost seen as an endorsement. They just didn't want to go down that road, and thought it was more appropriate that this be a parental choice and families decide what's best to do for their daughters.”

Yellowknife Catholic School Board chair Mary Vane voiced the same conviction.

“We do not have a crisis of cervical cancer in the NWT. Neither do we have a crisis in cervical cancer in Canada,” she said.

“If in 10 years this vaccine has some serious side-effects, no parent can come back to this board and say, there was somebody that allowed this in the school and knew there was a possibility it wasn't safe … I will put this decision back where it belongs – squarely on the shoulders of parents,” she said.

Vane added that many parents she had spoken to said they signed permission slips without thinking because they assumed anything the school offered was safe.

Critics of the widespread and indiscriminate use of the vaccine point to the thousands of instances of severe side effects linked to it, including numerous deaths.

Judicial Watch, a public interest group, has closely monitored Gardasil since it was released by creator Merck in 2006, periodically detailing statistics on the numerous side effects users have experienced. The most recent report alleges that the drug has been linked to 21 deaths and 9,749 adverse reactions, including 78 outbreaks of genital warts and 10 miscarriages.

YCS Trustee Brian Nagel said he could not support the motion for the vaccination program because he believed the pharmaceutical company responsible for Gardasil fast-tracked testing to get the drug on the market before rivals.

“I believe that the HPV vaccine in question has not been fully tested, and most will agree it will be a number of years before we understand the full impact and possible long-term side effects,” he said.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada approved Gardasil for girls as young as nine years old, despite the fact that the youngest girls participating in clinical trials were 11-12 years old, and no long-term side-effects study was undertaken before the vaccine was released, according to Judicial Watch.

The latest reports of Judicial Watch's investigation into the side-effects of HPV vaccine are available on the organization's website here.

See related coverage:

Gardasil – 18 Dead, Thousands Suffer Complications

Why Medical Authorities Cannot be Trusted on Gardasil HPV Vaccine By Gwen Landolt 

Ontario Catholic School Board Rejects HPV Vaccine on School Premises 

Controversial HPV Vaccine Causing One Death Per Month: FDA Report 


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