Minsters have given the go-ahead for a nationwide programme of vaccination against the HPV virus (a sexually transmitted disease which can cause cervical cancer). The vaccinations will be administered to 12 year old girls at a cost of £100m per year, which is estimated to save 400 lives annually.
The reason it’s done at the age of 12 is that it is only guaranteed to work before first sexual contact. Even so, retrospective inoculations for women into their twenties are up to 44% effective. It is an extremely successful jab. The government will also be running a one-off series of ‘catch up’ vaccinations which should mean that all girls up to the age of 18 have been vaccinated by 2011.
We reported on this back last December and again in June as it made its way through the necessary debate and cost-benefit analysis stages. We pointed it out at the time, but it bears saying again that some nutbars lobbied AGAINST the vaccination programme going ahead.
This, believe it or not, is because certain right-wing Christian groups in this country and in America worry that giving child an inoculation which might one day save their lives will ‘destroy their innocence’. How so? By publicly acknowledging the fact that – shocker – one day 12 year old girls will probably want to have sex. Worse – they seem to think that by jabbing said girls in the arm you will be giving them a prod in the ‘wrong’ direction.
The ‘family values’ groups who protested against these jabs seem to imagine 12 year old girls will be sprinting out of the school nurse’s office in search of the nearest snotty nosed teenage boy with a latent hard on, gasping “I never would have thought of this if it hadn’t been for that pesky vaccine” as they rut furtively behind the bike sheds.
And what is their solution? Simple. “We can prevent HPV by the best public health method and that’s by not having sex before marriage”, say the American evangelical group ‘Focus on Families’ (source).
So let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the various joint committees and government departments that have approved this programme have more sense than the Christian right. But whilst we’re doing that, let’s not forget that there are people fighting to constrain our rights at every turn; people who hate female sexuality and everything that goes with it. People who would rather their daughters died preventable deaths than were promiscuous. How very family minded of them.