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Teens missing out on life-saving vaccines

Parents are being urged to keep an eye out for consent forms and ensure their kids receive their free vaccinations, as the school immunisation program kicks off for the year.

All year 7 students have access to a free diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, as well as a two-dose course of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Year 10 students have access to a free meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

Medical Director of the Immunisation Program, Dr Alun Richards, said the latest available data shows teenagers are missing out on their school vaccinations, leaving them at risk of contracting potentially deadly diseases.

“In the 2017 school immunisation program, 79 percent of Year 7 students received a vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis; 67 percent completed the course of the HPV vaccine; and 64 percent of Year 10 students received a dose of meningococcal ACWY vaccine,” he said.

“While some families opt to vaccinate at their local GP or immunisation clinic, coverage is below what we’d like to see across Queensland.

“I’m urging parents to return the consent forms and ensure their kids are protected from these awful diseases.

“It’s free and very convenient for kids to have the vaccine at school, with clinics running at all state and non-state schools.”

Dr Richards said diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough are all serious illnesses that can be fatal.

“Diphtheria and tetanus are relatively uncommon, but can be very serious,” he said.

“Whooping cough usually only causes a persistent cough for adults and adolescents, but it can be life threatening for babies and young children.

“Vaccination for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough is provided in a single combined dose – meaning only one jab, not three.

“Children get vaccinated against these diseases when very young, but need a booster in Year 7

to maintain immunity.”

Dr Richards said HPV vaccine is provided to students in year 7 because the best protection comes from receiving the vaccine before becoming sexually active.

“There are more than 100 types of HPV and while for most people, infections clear naturally within two years, others can experience significant health issues including cancers and genital warts.

“The vaccine protects against more than 90 percent of HPV strains, significantly reducing the risk of developing HPV-related cancers – the most prominent being cervical cancer, but HPV can also cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth and throat.

“Year 7 students will be offered two doses of HPV vaccine, around six months apart, with both doses covered under the school immunisation program.”

Dr Richards said students in year 10 should receive one dose of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

“Meningococcal disease is a very serious infection and can cause death within 24 hours. Those that survive can have life-long disability including severe scarring, loss of limbs and brain damage,” he said.

“Young adults can have higher carriage rates of the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, which is why they are a priority group for vaccination.”

If anyone misses out on any of these vaccines through school, a catch-up program is available through GPs and immunisation clinics. While the vaccine is free, a consultation fee may apply.

For more information, visit the Queensland Government website.

Dr Richards said parents choosing not to vaccinate because of misinformation on immunisation should seriously reconsider.

Anti-vaccination claims are based on poorly conducted studies that have been discredited or disproven,” he said.

“These claims are entirely baseless, irresponsible and dangerous.

“The vast majority of mums and dads take the important step of protecting their kids through vaccination – it’s the sensible and the responsible thing to do.”


Media contact: (07) 3708 5376

Last updated: 18 February 2019