This is the advice on the national HPV Immunisation programme which has been provided to Catholic secondary schools by the Scottish Catholic Education Service:
VACCINATION AGAINST CERVICAL CANCER
The Scottish Government has decided to introduce a national immunisation programme which is intended to reduce the risk of cervical cancer for girls and young women. From September 2008 all 13-17 year old girls will be offered a vaccine to protect them against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which causes 70% of the cases of cervical cancer.
HPV is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives without knowing it, as there are usually no symptoms. Most of the time, the virus does not cause cancer because the body’s immune system clears it up, but not always.
It should be noted that HPV vaccination does not provide protection against other sexually transmitted infections; nor is it a contraceptive.
Parents and teachers can be confident that the moral teachings of the Catholic Church support the use of vaccination to prevent disease. With the consent of their parents, young people can be protected from infection before the time when they are most vulnerable to sexual pressure and to the dangers of non-consensual sex.
Vaccination against the disease should not be seen as any sort of encouragement to promiscuity. Head Teachers of Catholic schools should ensure that any information and advice provided by Health agencies about this or any other programme is appropriate in the context of the school’s ethos, values and moral teaching.
Of course, the only 100% effective way of avoiding the dangers of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual activity before marriage and to remain faithful to your spouse within marriage. The HPV immunisation programme provides an opportunity for parents to discuss with their children – boys as well as girls – the virtues of chastity and fidelity and the meaning of marriage. Opportunities for such discussions are provided within the context of the ‘Called to Love’ programme which has been developed for Catholic secondary schools.