The end of the school holidays can be a busy time for parents and carers as they organise and prepare for kids 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.

South West Hospital and Health Service Children’s Health Nursing Director Ninette Johnstone said the Queensland School Immunisation Program was available at all state and non-state secondary schools.

Ms Johnstone 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 Johnstone 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 kids to get vaccinated while at school. Parents then don’t have to try to fit appointments into their busy lives,’’ she said.

Ms Johnstone said students who missed their school immunisation could still be vaccinated later.

• At a catch-up school immunisation clinic;

• At their local primary health care centre;

• By another local immunisation provider;

• By a GP.

“However, while the vaccine will be free, you may be charged or bulk-billed a consultation fee by your doctor, or another immunisation provider,’’ she said.

Ms Johnstone 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.

“We’re asking parents to be aware of these consent forms so they can take advantage of the program at their child’s school, if they wish to have their child vaccinated.

“Last year, we saw an improved rate of consent forms being returned, which was wonderful to see.

“However, this is one area that could still see further improvement and we request that parents return the forms even if they are declining the vaccination.’’

Ms Johnstone said immunisation was important for adolescents because they needed a booster dose at this age to ensure 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 needs 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 Johnstone 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 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 Johnstone 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.

“The best people to ask are vaccine service providers such as those at a primary health care centre, or your doctor.”

For more information on immunisation and the School Immunisation Program visit:

http://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/immunisation/

For further information contact:

James Guthrie

Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld

Media and Communication

Department of Health

(07) 3708 5379

Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au