News / Calgary

Calgary Catholic schools could begin offering HPV vaccinations before summer

Catholic schools in Calgary could begin offering a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) before the school year's out and will also move to immunize students missed during four years of opposing a publicly funded program.

Those decisions were made during a meeting Wednesday night that followed a consultation period with all but one of the Calgary Catholic School District's 105 schools — 91 of which supported the program.

"We believe that our parents are the first and best educators," said the district's trustee chair Mary Martin.

The vaccination has proven effective against the virus, which can lead to cervical cancer, and every other major Catholic school district in Canada has adopted a program already.

Dr. Susan Bornemisza, a specialist in sexual reproductive health, said the district's decision to reverse its stance on school-based vaccinations has been a long time coming. She was involved with pro-vaccine group HPV Calgary, which had threatened to sue the district if it continued to reject the vaccination program under the claim it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"It's kind of exciting to think 10 years from now I won't have to give as much bad news," Bornemisza said. "It's huge for physicians."

HPV Calgary estimates that as many as 16,000 Catholic students were not offered the vaccine over the past four years.

The district had made a point in the past of providing a letter from Alberta Health Services advising of places where immunization was offered outside the school but also included a message from spiritual leader Bishop Fred Henry expressing his concern about the measure.

Vaccination program details

  • Calgary Catholic School District parents will still be required to provide written consent before their child can be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), a common practice for immunizations offered by both public and separate school boards.
  • The vaccination will be offered to girls in Grade 5 along with those older students missed as far back as 2008.

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