A number of schools are denying access to the potentially lifesaving vaccine for cervical cancer because they claim it goes against their religion. According to research by GP Magazine, 24 schools in 83 of the 152 Primary Care Trusts in England have opted out of the vaccination programme.
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The schools that have refused the vaccine have claimed it goes against their ‘strict Christian principles’ because they disapprove of sex outside marriage. Most have also failed to inform local GPs who could offer the jab instead.
The vaccine, Cervarix, has been available in the UK since 2008. It protects girls against the HPV virus, which is thought to cause cervical cancer. More than 80 per cent of eligible teens in the UK since 2010 have received the vaccine.
The reasons schools gave for turning down the programme included "not in keeping with the school ethos", "pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage" and "the school does not want parents/students to feel pressured by peers or the school setting".
A school in London also recently revealed that it was cancelling the programme as it upset the girls so much it disrupted school lessons.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has voiced its concerns that GPs are not being kept in the loop with vaccination programmes and take up rates and that this could put girls at risk in the future.
"GPs need to know of completion of vaccination courses,” explained Dr George Kassianos, immunisation lead at the RCGP.
"None of our immunisations are compulsory. We therefore must accept that some children or adults will not be vaccinated. It is hard to understand how immunisation against cancer can be rejected but that is how it is out there in the community."
Dr Richard Vautrey from the British medical Association added, “This is placing their children at risk in later life and should be challenged.”