By Hilary White

GLASGOW, September 11, 2008 ( – The vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) will be distributed in Scotland’s Catholic schools with the approval of the Scottish bishops after initial objections that it encourages sexual promiscuity in young girls. The government plans to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 each year, starting this month, telling parents it is a vaccine against cervical cancer.

The Church in Scotland announced it is supporting the program, with the vaccine being given in its own schools, after an agreement was reached that information on “safe sex” and condoms would not be given with the vaccine.

Ronnie Convery, the media spokesman for the archbishop of Glasgow said, “We have been in fruitful discussion with the health and education authorities, and we are satisfied that the programme to be rolled out across the country now is a responsible and ethically appropriate one.”

In June this year, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline won the contract to distribute their vaccine against HPV, Cervarix, in a national vaccination programme. There will also be a catch up program for girls aged 14 up to 18 years, which will be implemented over the next 2-3 years.

The government is pushing the vaccine, saying that combined with “screening” and a “healthy lifestyle”, vaccination will significantly reduce the lifetime risk of cervical cancer. But parents’ groups have objected saying that the government is using British girls in a massive experiment that puts them at risk.

While research has shown the vaccine is “well-tolerated” by women over 25 years of age, the government’s plan to give it to children as young as 12 has parents upset and worried.

The group Not With My Child has issued a fact sheet to parents warning them of health risks associated with Cervarix. Even though the drug has not yet been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration, the British vaccination program is going ahead. Cervarix was approved in September 2007 in the European Union.

The group warns that the drug is not appropriate for young girls. If a girl is sexually active, they say, and has already been infected by any of the 40 strains of HPV that affect the genitals, particularly the 13 strains that create a high risk for cancer, research has shown that of those who are vaccinated, 44.6 percent will go on to develop pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix.

Cervarix was listed in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), with Merck’s Gardasil, in which the authors asked why the vaccines are being so widely distributed despite the lack of evidence for their efficacy. Gardasil, which has been widely distributed in the US, is already under tremendous criticism for its severe side-effects and 21 deaths.

Not With My Child reminds the government in their brief that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Given that HPV is more likely to cause cancer when a woman’s immune system is compromised by multiple strains of the virus, abstinence from sexual activity is the solution they say. “Promiscuity in teenage years increases the risk of Cervical Cancer. Vaccination only provides some protection from some strains of HPV – a venereal disease.”

Dr. Charlotte J. Haug, editor of The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, wrote on the use of the two vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer. With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious.”

Dr. Haug said it is not certain if the protection offered by the vaccines will even lead to reduced rates of cervical cancer. In July this year, the US Food and Drug Administration admitted that Gardasil was causing an average of a death per month. The serious adverse events include anaphylactic shock, grand mal convulsion, foaming at mouth, coma, paralysis, and death.

While the FDA has not approved Cervarix, the drug’s manufacturer has admitted to side effects including, headache, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itching, pruritis, rashes, arthralgia (joint pain) and upper respiratory tract infections. Some women who were given the vaccine in early pregnancy have miscarried.

GlaxoSmithKline and the British government are pulling out all the stops in promoting the drug, including targeting social networking sites popular with young girls. Ads and text on the Lola’s Land website, “Remember chica, this is a totally life-saving, revolutionary vaccine!” and “Let’s fight cervical cancer together and arm ourselves against it!”

A UK Christian group, Christian Voice, revealed in October 2007 that the company is paying a British charity, the cervical cancer group, Jo’s Trust, which is promoting Cervarix. Jo’s Trust issued a press release “welcoming” the Department of Health’s announcement that Cervarix will be given to 12-year-olds this year. The corporate responsibility section of the GlaxoSmithKline website lists a donation of £1000 for an “unrestricted Medical Fellowship”, and another medical fellowship donation of £3,000 to support improvements to IT capabilities within the Trust’s office.

In 2006, the company donated £5,000 for IT improvements and £1,600 “in recognition of presentations given” by Jo’s Trust at GSK meetings. Also in 2006, GSK donated another £1,300 for Jo’s Trust to attend a cervical cancer medical conference in Paris and £2,500 “medical fellowship award” to lobbying at a Parliamentary Breakfast at the House of Commons.

  Read related coverage:

Controversial HPV Vaccine Causing One Death Per Month: FDA Report

Alberta Bishops Take Action against HPV Vaccination Campaign in Schools

Why Medical Authorities Cannot be Trusted on Gardasil HPV Vaccine