Tuesday 22 October 2019

'Can we not do better than throwing condoms at young boys and the HPV vaccine at young girls?' - Bishop claims cervical cancer vaccine 'only 70pc safe'

Bishop Cullinan
Bishop Cullinan
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A Catholic Bishop has come under fire for claiming that the HPV cervical cancer vaccine is only "70 per cent" safe.

Bishop Phonsie Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, told Independent.ie that he has "serious concerns" about the HPV vaccine.

Bishop Cullinan claims the vaccine offers “no absolute guarantee” of “full protection” against cervical cancer.

He added that it is a "lifestyle issue" and that "we should be doing more to protect young girls".

"We're giving 12-year-olds an injection against something that is sexually transmitted. What kind of message is that to give a 12-year-old girl?

"Can we not do better than throwing condoms at young boys and throwing the HPV vaccine at young girls?"

The Waterford and Lismore Bishop added that he has seen the "devastation after a relationship breakdown".

"Young lives are being destroyed due to sexual relationships. Surely we can do something better for our young people."

Up to 30,000 adolescent girls are due to receive the vaccine in schools this month. In recent months, the uptake rates have fallen to 50 per cent as a result of opposition from a number of groups.

These groups claim that hundreds of girls who received the vaccine are suffering from long-term health effects but these claims have not been supported by any scientific study.

The Bishop's comments have received backlash with many claiming that his remarks are "unhelpful" and "scaremongering".

In a statement, Paul Connors, National Director of Communications at the HSE, said that Bishop Cullinan's comments are "unacceptable and outdated".

"Many of the comments made by Bishop Phonsie Cullinan in his recent media outburst simply fly in the face of best available medical and scientific evidence –including the WHO, ECDC and leading clinicians from a wide variety of disciplines in this country.

"He has chosen certain statistics and repackaged them in a way to suit his particular narrative.  His miscommunication of information in this way puts the health and lives of women in Ireland at risk. This is unacceptable for a person in his position.

"His comments may have had resonance fifty years ago in Ireland. But in the context of a young, intelligent, vibrant and mobile population of Ireland of 2017 his comments are outdated, unhelpful and quite frankly ill-informed.

"I have no doubt that Bishop Cullinan is an expert in theology and ecclesiastical matters.  Those who are involved in planning for and administering the HPV vaccine are clinical experts in public health medicine and cancer. The women of Ireland might be better served if Bishop Cullinan left pronouncements on important clinical matters such as vaccination programmes to the experts in that field."

Responding to the criticism, Bishop Cullinan said he is "not afraid of the backlash".

"The debate needs to be had. The HSE are wonderful people trying to do their best, but many parents don't share their views on the HPV vaccine.

"The Regret group has over 400 concerned parents. The debate needs to be had."

Bishop Cullinan said that debate around the vaccine is "essential" and that other countries have criticised the vaccine.

"In Japan, they have gotten rid of the HPV vaccine from their national vaccination programme. In Denmark, they've replaced it with another vaccine. In 2014 in France, 600 doctors called for a parliamentary investigation into the vaccine. Concerns are there."

Dr Hogan from the Irish Medical Organisation said:

"Uptake rates for the HPV vaccine amongst young girls have declined in recent years on the back of fake news stories about non-existent risks from vaccinations.

"As a result, we are putting the future health of young women at risk of cervical cancer and other ailments. The vaccine is safe and saves lives and the evidence shows that the vaccine prevents cervical cancer. The World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have concluded that the injection is safe and has no link to any serious illnesses.”

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