March 11, 2010
Last year, the school’s board of trustees was criticised by the Ministry of Health for publishing an article in the school newsletter on the supposed pitfalls of the Gardasil human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which aims to protect girls from the age of 12 against cervical cancer.
However, the school still allowed the vaccine to be administered.
But this year the school will not and refuses to say why.
West Coast District Health Board HPV project co-ordinator Lynda Driver said she understood the issue had been “hotly contested” among the board members.
However, its final decision had been to wipe its hands of the immunisation.
She said it was worrying that the move had not been discussed more within the school community, and hoped it would not affect the programme, which would now be run independently over the rest of the month by the district health board.
“We want the programme to go ahead, so our main concern is getting these girls vaccinated in a safe environment, and that’s what we intend to go ahead and do,” Ms Driver said.
Last year, just before the vaccination programme was set to begin, the school published an article entitled “What your DHB didn’t tell you about HPV” in the newsletter, claiming that young women who got the vaccine were “guinea pigs”.
Other allegations included that the vaccine was made from genetically modified baker’s yeast.
Board of trustees chairwoman Jane Neale said at the time it was a board decision to inform parents of both sides of the vaccine, and stood by the decision.
That was despite criticism from the Ministry of Health that the school advice was misleading and trying to discredit an immunisation campaign that offered considerable benefits to New Zealand women and girls by preventing the infection – spread through sexual activity and the known cause of 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts.
Mrs Neale said the media was not the place to talk about the school’s decision but that the board had decided it would be “more appropriate” to have the vaccine administered elsewhere.
It was happy to pass on information about the new DHB vaccination clinics, she said.
Principal Tony Guilliland declined to comment.
The school’s decision comes only days after Wellington woman Rhonda Renata publicly blamed the Gardasil vaccine for the death of her 18-year-old daughter last year.