By Hilary White

MANCHESTER, UK, September 25, 2008 ( – A solitary Catholic school in Britain has refused to go along with the government’s plans to vaccinate 12 year-old girls against a sexually transmitted disease. Governors at St. Monica’s High School in Prestwich, Greater Manchester believe the school is “not the right place” to administer the drug.

“Therefore, governors have taken the decision not to allow the school premises to be used for this programme.” The government plans to distribute the drug Cervarix to all school girls in Britain, aged 12 and up.

In a letter to parents, the school cited side effects of the drug such as “fainting.” Monsignor John Allen, one of the school’s governors, told the Guardian newspaper, “This is not a moral judgment on the vaccination. It’s a question of where this vaccination should be given and how it should be given.”

But last year Msgr. Allen did object on moral grounds, saying, “Morally it seems to be a sticking-plaster response. Parents must consider the knock-on effect of encouraging sexual promiscuity. Instead of taking it for granted that teenagers will engage in sexual activity, we can offer a vision of a full life keeping yourself for a lifelong partnership in marriage.”

His position was not supported by Catholic authorities, however, who said they “do not have a moral objection” to the drug being distributed, but that it is up to individual schools to decide whether to allow it. In Scotland, the Catholic bishops undertook a lengthy negotiation with health officials and reached a compromise in which the HPV drug will be given in Catholic schools on the condition that information on contraceptives will not go along with it.

This is in contrast to a statement from the Catholic bishops of Alberta, Canada, who objected to the government’s plans to give the vaccine to young girls. “Catholic teaching is that sexuality is a God-given gift that should be reserved to marriage,” they said, warning parents that consenting to vaccination was condoning pre-marital sex.

Gerald Warner, writing on his blog at the Daily Telegraph, said, “To the fanatical moral nihilists of Labour, teenage virginity is a dangerous illness that must be eliminated as early as possible. The politically correct orthodoxy insists that 12-year-old girls should be told by their parents and teachers that their expectation of them is a career of sexual promiscuity.

“Evidently no higher ideal of religious conviction or plain self-respect is to be tolerated.”

The government has said that the vaccine will be given to 600,000 girls aged 12-13 years (school year 8) from autumn 2008, and a catch-up program will start in autumn 2009 and will run for two years to target girls up to 18 years.

The vaccination effort is costing the British taxpayers £100 million a year, with the catch-up program costing an additional £200 million over the next two years. The vaccine, Cervarix, made by the UK group GlaxoSmithKline is awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. The government has come under some criticism for choosing Cervarix over Gardasil because the former was cheaper, even though Cervarix only protects against two of the 30 to 40 types of HPV.

Gardasil, a rival vaccine made by Merck, has been used in the US and has been blamed for as many as 21 deaths of women.

Read related coverage:

HPV Vaccine Will Go to 12-Year-Olds in Scottish Catholic Schools with Church Approval

Two European Deaths Thought to Be Associated with HPV Vaccine