40+ religious schools in NZ won’t let students get vaccinated against cervical cancer at school. They don’t deserve taxpayer funding.

An open letter to our MPs:

As I understand it, there are more than 40 NZ secondary schools that prohibit vaccination on school grounds for HPV, the virus that causes virtually all cervical cancers, and many anal and head and neck cancers. 
Sadly, most of these claim to be Christian schools, which is ironic. It’s an exceptionally unchristian and inhumane thing to stand in the way of cancer prevention (in girls as well as boys) due to stone age thinking that vaccination encourages promiscuity rather than prevents cancer. 
We (and I don’t mean health professionals, or politicians, I mean ALL New Zealanders) can’t let this atrocity continue. Women will   needlessly develop cervical cancer when there is a extremely effective vaccine that can prevent it. 
People may not realise it, but most of these religious schools receive $1,000-$2,000 per student per year in government funding. For an average-sized school that means hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money annually. That money should not be used to obstruct cancer prevention. 
Some of these schools won’t allow Ministry of Health vaccination nurses to come on their school grounds to vaccinate kids (whose parents have approved of the vaccination), while I’m told others won’t even allow the mere distribution of cervical cancer information to students and whanau. This is insane. 
As a doctor I get to see the end result of misogynistic and backward practices like this: young women, often mothers, getting diagnosed with and sometimes dying from a disease for which a vaccine has existed for almost 20 years. 
A vaccine which every single 13-year-old boy and girl could and should be getting for free. A vaccine which would prevent literally hundreds of cases of head and neck, anal, and cervical cancer each year.
Cervical cancer is a disease which should be virtually non-existent in New Zealand. Instead it’s killing 50 of our wahine every year. 

Like most people, I wouldn’t want my taxpayer dollars going to organisations that stand in the way of cancer prevention.
If these schools want to put up roadblocks to HPV vaccination, then let them…but they certainly shouldn’t be rewarded with a single cent of taxpayer funding. 
If you have the power to influence this, please do. Cervical cancer is a vaccine-preventable disease. And schools have an obligation not to stand in the way of cancer prevention. 

Dr Gary Payinda

Emergency Medicine Specialist