Minima has come home from school with a form requesting permission to give her the vaccination against Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Maxima and I sat her down and we talked about the reason HPV vaccinations are being offered, ie in order to protect girls and women from catching the virus, which can cause precancerous changes in the cervix, through sex. As Minima sets out on her walk towards womanhood, we're - although Maxima takes a leading role - in the process of having short, targeted talks about boys and sex in the context of Christian morality. Having sat across my table from a state-school teacher expressing her frustration at not being allowed to mention abstinence in sex-ed on pain of being disciplined for being "judgemental", I'm not keen for the state to stick its sociopathic nose in.
When I looked at the form, published by Cambridgeshire Community Services, the first thing I noticed was a spelling mistake in the sentence asking if Minima had a "sever Latex allergy", and wondered if the manager who rubberstamped the form was a veteran of Labour's educational reforms:
The back of the document asked for reasons should parents wish that their child not be immunized. I wrote that I'd send these under a separate cover, and that if Minima were vaccinated against HPV I would treat this as an assault.
The reasons for this are threefold:
Firstly, in order to make an informed decision regarding a medications given to their children, parents need good-quality information. This information is primarily about side-effects. No information at all is included on the form, merely a statement that for questions to be answered, "please contact the school nurse or other health professional or go to http://www.immunisation.nhs.uk/nhs. There, we are treated to less-than-comprehensive sagety information:
Is the vaccine safe?I'm sure it has done, but what I want to know is, what were the results of the safety testing, and who was informed of these results?
The vaccine has undergone rigorous safety testing as part of the licensing process required in the UK and other European countries.
The reason I ask this is that it's not unknown for the results of safety testing to be withheld not just from the public but from doctors. For example, in 2001, a BBC documentary found that Glaxo Smith Kline had withheld from doctors the results of trials questioning the safety of the antidepressant Seroxat. Just so, an Australian report uncovered side-effects including paralysis and hallucinations relating to administration of Gardasil in that country, and the US educational foundation Judicial Watch forced the Government to release details of not only 140 "serious adverse events" tied to Gardasil, including spontaneous abortion and the paralysing illness Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but also ten deaths. What else remains to come to light?
Secondly, in Great Britain we have the highest rate of teenage birth and teenage abortion in Europe - in other words, there's a lot of teenage sex happening (so I can understand my teacher friend's frustration at not being allowed to mention abstinence). At an age when memories of my teenage crushes seem to be at the far end of a long tunnel, I can understand that vaccination against two of the 30-40 HPV viruses that cause pre-cancerous changes that may lead to cervical cancer in the 10% of women who don't clear the virus spontaneously doesn't make sex "safe" (whatever that means); but to an individual caught in a hormonal vice and being hammered by the effects of abusive governmental policy on sex education, that conclusion may be difficult to reach.
Thirdly, I believe that there is a dignity inherent in being human which can be shattered by various acts, one of which is sex divorced of its proper context as an expression of love between a man and a woman who have taken a commitment to each other. Preferably before God, but as a minimum in public.
We shouldn't lose sight of our ideals for the sake of expedience, or because somebody might call us judgemental. So I will fight state-sponsored initiatives which harm children and families, and seek to present sex as a stand-alone activity that is unrelated to other aspects of life. As a Christian I realise that people of faith set high standards. These ideals aren't always met. US politician and soldier Carl Schurz put it best:
Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.
Related post: HPV vaccination: the day I embraced Dawkins