“There’s certainly no place for such a vaccination in a religious school, since it rests on the fundamental assumption that the girls are steeped in the sins of Western culture, in which girls give their bodies to men and don’t wait until the wedding…[it is wrong to make these girls go through the unpleasantness of being told about] “sleeping with many men, [just] for the sake of that small percentage of girls who, heaven forbid, are liable to stumble by giving away their bodies.”
Haredi, Zionist Orthodox Rabbis Oppose HPV Vaccine Over Modesty Fears
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s Ministry of Health has reportedly decided to support vaccinations against the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Ha'aretz reports that the vaccines, which would be given to 8th grade girls, are not without controversy.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HPV can cause cervical and other forms of cancer in women and several forms of cancer in men. Almost everyone who is sexually active – even if they only have one sexual partner for their entire life – will likely get HPV at least once.
In most people, HPV will do no evident harm. People will for the most part have no noticeable symptoms of HPV infection and most will not get cancer from it.
But the risk is serious enough that the CDC recommends that all 11- to 12-year-old children, females and males, be vaccinated, and the position is taken by the ministries of health in almost all developed countries.
But in Israel, the decision to vaccinate is trickier and much more controversial.
Haredi and Zionist Orthodox Rabbis.
Most Zionist Orthodox and haredi rabbis are very poorly educated in secular subjects, including science and medical science, and very susceptible to being misled by junk science and conspiracy theories.
When these rabbis found out that 12-year-old girls would be vaccinated against HPV – a sexually transmitted virus – they issued decrees against it.
“There’s certainly no place for such a vaccination in a religious school, since it rests on the fundamental assumption that the girls are steeped in the sins of Western culture, in which girls give their bodies to men and don’t wait until the wedding,” Rabbi Baruch Efrati reportedly told the parents of a young girl via the Orthodox website Srugim. Efrati also reportedly praised the couple for being “shocked by the immodesty inherent in this [vaccination program].”
Efrati reportedly insists that there is little risk that most Orthodox girls will contract HPV. Therefore, Efrati reasons, there is no reason to have them risk potential side effects from the vaccine. And, Efrati says, it is wrong to make these girls go through the unpleasantness of being told about “sleeping with many men, [just] for the sake of that small percentage of girls who, heaven forbid, are liable to stumble by giving away their bodies” – especially, Efrati reportedly added, because these girls’ risk of developing cancer is small.
Efrati also reportedly wrote that there is no religious prohibition on administering the vaccine in secular schools, where the danger of contracting HPV is, he thinks, greater. But parents are permitted to prevent their daughters from being vaccinated if they so choose, Efrati emphasized.
The HPV vaccine is much more effective when given to prepubescent children, as the CDC notes.
“HPV vaccines are recommended for 11- or 12-year-old boys and girls. HPV vaccines are safe and effective, and can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over six months; it is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. Boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 are most likely to have the best protection provided by HPV vaccines, and their immune response to vaccine is better than older women and men.”
Israel’s vaccination program should actually be anchored in the 5th or 6th grade, not the 8th.
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a liberal Zionist Orthodox movement, sent what Ha’aretz called “a harshly-worded letter” to Education Minister Shay Piron and other senior ministry officials yesterday calling for the heads of the state Zionist Orthodox school system “to renounce in a decisive fashion these voices [against the vaccinations], which are based on ignorance, fear-mongering and border on medical irresponsibility toward the girls who will listen to them. [The government should not] bring in ulterior motives when considering the medical need to prevent serious diseases, and [should] not [be allowed] to hide important facts because of ‘modesty’ fears.…[Whoever prevents girls from getting the vaccine] violates the [principle of the] holiness of life,” Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah wrote.
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah’s letter was reportedly written by Dr. Einav Mayzlish Gati, a biologist. She told Ha’aretz that the movement could no longer bury its head in the sand, noting that is impossible to use modesty concerns to forbid things that are purely medical in nature.
“Before I wrote the letter, I consulted with gynecologists and female doctors who told me the recommendation is to vaccinate, even in cases of a small number of partners. I read [scholarly] articles that said it is possible to be infected not just through sexual relations. So is someone willing to take that risk?,” Mayzlish Gati reportedly said.
The Ministry of Health says it could prevent most of the approximately 200 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Israel each year, approximately 100 annual deaths, and prevent over 5,000 cases a year of pre-cancerous cervical growths that require medical treatment and can damage fertility if the vaccines are given.
But on Tuesday the haredi daily Yated Ne'eman, the mouthpiece of the Ashkenazi haredi Degel HaTorah faction of the United Torah Judaism political party, quoted Dr. Benny Chen, the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the haredi Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak, as saying that his 25 years of experience, cervical cancer is very rare in the haredi and Zionist Orthodox communities. Based on Chen’s opinion, the leading Ashkenazi haredi rabbis ruled that the vaccine shouldn’t be given in the haredi community at such a young age. “He who keeps the Torah, the Torah protects him,” Yated Ne’eman wrote.
The Ministry of Health reportedly said it will not force schools to adopt the vaccination program and it will not force parents to vaccinate their children. There is no law mandating the vaccination, the ministry noted, and in any case, parents have to sign a consent form before the vaccine can be administered.
Parents can opt to vaccinate their daughters at HMO clinics or through a private doctor if their child’s school does not offer the vaccines, the Ministry of Health noted.
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