Now this is a little bit weird.
Back in February we had media coverage telling us that only 40 schools nationwide had either declined to offer the HPV vaccine or had not yet replied.
This week we find out that in fact 78 schools have refused to participate in the programme (Crochetted beanie with a bobble on top tipped to reader Am via Facebook). That's nearly double.
Am I reading this right? This must mean that of the 40 who had either said no or hadn't yet replied in February all must have said no. And a further 38 schools must have changed from a committed yes to a no. Which begs the obvious question: why?
The 78 schools represent around 5% of all schools eligible to participate in the vaccination programme which is aimed at radically lowering the rate of women who contract the HPV virus and are thus at risk of cervical cancer later in life. Some will have chosen to opt out for logistic reasons, such as small rural schools, and others for "religious reasons"*. Women's Health Action have raised concerns that the vaccination programme has been rolled out too quickly and without sufficient research. There have been concerns raised about adverse reactions, giving DHBs access to school records, and insufficient information for parents. I can understand why a school might decide against offering the vaccine, although I adamantly disagree with that decision.
But why does it seem that a whopping 38 schools have changed their minds?
I've put an Official Information Act request in to the Ministries of Health and Education to find out which schools have opted out, and their reasons for doing so. That might take a while. In the meantime it would be really nice if a journalist could ask why the number refusing to offer the vaccine doubled between February and May.
* I'm sure there are some religious reasons that are based around medical treatment and/or vaccination in general. However I've yet to see any religious reason offered publicly which has not boiled down to "keeping girls safe from a sexually transmitted infection will make sex less scary for them."