Shot in the arm: Students will need to play catch-up on vaccinations

Students in all year levels will be back at school on Monday but some will need catch-up vaccinations.

May 25, 2020, updated May 25, 2020
Rural parents are furious at double-standards being applied to boarding school students (Photo: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Rural parents are furious at double-standards being applied to boarding school students (Photo: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health resources were prioritised and social distancing required, so the School Immunisation Program had to be paused at the end of March. It is not clear how many children are behind on their shots.

The SIP is a key mechanism of ensuring children are vaccinated against a number of diseases. It offers free vaccination to Year 7 students to protect against human papillomavirus and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), and to Year 10 students to protect against meningococcal A,C,W and Y disease.

While some SIP providers, such as local councils, were able to continue offering vaccines, school clinics had to be cancelled. A Queensland Health spokeswoman said these would be rescheduled and other initiatives undertaken to ensure children did not miss out.

“Any cancelled term 1 and 2 school clinics will be rescheduled to terms 3 and 4 where possible,” the spokeswoman said.

“Students can attend a catch-up session if offered by their school immunisation provider during the eligible year of vaccination, or the student can receive their vaccination at their doctor or community immunisation clinic.

“GPs have been advised to offer catch-up vaccinations, where appropriate, and SIP providers have been encouraged to offer catch-up vaccination in the 2021 SIP, for students who missed scheduled school clinics in 2020.”

As work continues on a COVID-19 vaccine, eligible Australians have been encouraged to have their flu shot, to protect themselves and also the health system from an outbreak.

However, the social distancing restrictions and health system changes, such as the cancellation of elective surgery, have sparked concerns that people may not be taking preventive health measures or managing chronic issues.

Updated cancer screening data is not yet available but Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt last week said he was heartened that the childhood vaccination rate was still high at the end of March.

“The latest figures that I have is that our national vaccination rates, I think for the first quarter, remained at almost 95 per cent,” Hunt said last week.

“And if this pandemic teaches us anything, it’s (that) where vaccinations are available we should be using vaccinations. And we’ve had extensive campaigns and we’ll continue to have campaigns because the message is very simple: vaccinations save lives and protect lives.”

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