Getting schooled in immunisation
18 January 2019
The end of the school holidays can be a busy time for parents and carers as they organise and prepare for students returning to school.
But mums, dads and carers of Queensland year 7 and 10 students have one less thing to worry about knowing their child can receive their necessary vaccinations for free at school.
Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Public Health Manager South Ann Richards said the Queensland School Immunisation Program was available at all state and non-state secondary schools.
Ms Richards said the program meant high school students had the opportunity to be given their scheduled immunisations at school to protect against serious diseases such as human papillomavirus (HPV), diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and meningococcal ACWY strains.
HPV and diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccines are offered in Year 7, while meningococcal ACWY is offered to Year 10s.
“These scheduled vaccinations given to students in years 7 and 10 are extremely important and effective at preventing serious and life threatening infectious diseases,’’ Ms Richards said.
She said it was important immunisations were given on time or as close as possible to the due date in accordance with the Queensland immunisation schedule.
“It’s convenient for parents for their children to get vaccinated while at school. Parents then don’t have to try to fit appointments into their busy lives,’’ she said.
“But if your children haven’t had their vaccines or missed some, don’t worry because they can still be vaccinated for free up to the age of 20.’’
Ms Richards said students who missed their school immunisation could still be vaccinated later, up to age 20:
- At a catch-up school immunisation clinic;
- At their local primary health care centre;
- By another local immunisation provider;
- By a GP.
Ms Richards said the success of the School Immunisation Program depended heavily on parents and students.
She said before the immunisation clinic visited a school, students would be given a consent form that needed to be read and signed by a parent or guardian.
“They are also provided with information about the diseases, the benefits of immunisation and the rare possibility of side effects,’’ she said.
“One issue we do encounter is consent forms not being returned and this is sometimes because the student hasn’t passed the form on to their parents or because parents aren’t award of the vaccination process.
“We’re asking parents to look out for these consent forms which will come out via the school so they can take advantage of the program at their child’s school, if they wish to have their child vaccinated.”
Ms Richards said immunisation was important for adolescents because a booster dose at this age ensured continued protection after their childhood vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
“The immunisation schedule for adolescents also includes the very effective human papillomavirus vaccine, which is recommended to be given in early adolescence,’’ she said.
“The HPV vaccine is most effective when given in early adolescence and both doses must be received over a six-month period for the vaccine to be effective.
“This vaccine is very important as it protects against the two high-risk HPV types which cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers in women and 90 per cent of all HPV-related cancers in men.’’
Ms Richards said meningococcal disease was a severe and sometimes deadly infection that occurred when meningococcal bacteria invaded the body from the throat or nose.
“Some of the highest rates of meningococcal carriage occur among 15 to 19-year-olds,’’ she said.
“This age group also can transmit the meningococcal bacteria to people who are at increased risk of infection, including young children.
“By decreasing the proportion of people carrying the bacteria in their nose and throat, the program protects young people immediately and the wider community over time.’’
Ms Richards said a lot of myths were circulating about vaccination but it was important for parents to know the facts and where to access reliable information.
“If parents decide to research immunisation, they should beware of misguided and misleading information,’’ she said.
“Vaccine service providers such as those at a primary health care centre, or your doctor will provide information.”
Visit Immunisation and the School Immunisation Program webpage for more information
PHOTO CAPTION: Thursday Island student Israel Savage, 14, gets his jab as part of the School Immunisation Program.