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Bishop apologises for false claims about HPV vaccine and teenage sex

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan says he wasn’t “fully informed”.

Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan.
Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan.
Image: Twitter/catholicbishops

THE CATHOLIC BISHOP who suggested that the HPV vaccine was “70% safe” and could encourage young people to have sex has apologised for his comments.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan made the comments in correspondence to a number of media outlets but they were shown to be false and were widely criticised.

Speaking on WLR FM, Cullinan also said that the HPV vaccine was a “lifestyle issue” as well as a medical one.

“It’s also a lifestyle issue because it affects the lifestyle of our young people. And my own contact with young people and seeing how often they are almost peer pressured into having sex in their teenager years,” he said.

Now, Cullinan has apologised for his intervention through a statement issued though the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

In his statement, Cullinan said that he was “not fully informed” about the HPV vaccine.

His statement reads:

I wish to apologise for contributing to any misinformation, or indeed for causing upset to anyone, concerning use of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines.My intervention was in response to concerns which I had received about HPV vaccines from parents wishing to make the best health decision on behalf of their children, and from young people alike. My intention was solely motivated to protect people from the HPV.I was not fully informed about the vaccination programme and I can see now how HPV vaccines can contribute greatly to lowering the rate of cervical cancer. As I have learnt, possession of full information is paramount on this vital health issue.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that is in most cases symptomless but can cause cervical cancer in women and has also been associated with throat cancers.

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The news that Cullinan that has retracted his comments was welcomed today by Health Minister Simon Harris said it is time to “stop talking about bishops and medical advice in the same sentence”.

“Quite frankly I think we’ve spent too long talking about bishops and vaccininations. People want medical advice and they should get it from medical experts but I am encouraged by the fact that the bishop, like so many of our citizens, when he went away and made himself more informed about the issue came around to the view that the HPV vaccine is extraordinarily safe and saves lives,” said Harris.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy   

Read: FactCheck: Is the Bishop of Waterford right to say the HPV vaccine is ’70% safe’? >

Read: ‘I wouldn’t dare say don’t take the vaccine’: TDs on why they’ve asked questions about HPV in Dáil >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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