Immunisation against potentially life-threatening infectious diseases is one of modern medicine’s greatest successes.
The World Health Organization has reiterated the importance of continuing immunisation programmes during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General advises: “The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way. Vaccines can be delivered safely even during the pandemic, and we are calling on countries to ensure these essential life-saving programmes continue.”
School immunisation programmes are a very important part of our immunisation programme in Ireland, and offer children protection against life-threatening diseases such as meningitis, tetanus and HPV-related cancers.
Giving students vaccines in a school setting reduces inequalities in vaccine uptake. In school, all students have an equal opportunity to be vaccinated and barriers that may affect vaccine uptake are removed e.g. travel to a clinic, parents requiring time off work to accompany students etc.
As a result of Covid-19, schools, as well as our health services are facing significant challenges.
HSE school immunisation teams are making contact with schools to work with them during these challenging times, on how to ensure the safe delivery of the schools immunisation programme.
During the 2020/2021 school year, HSE school vaccination teams will provide three different vaccines to students in second-level schools. These are HPV, Tdap and Men ACWY vaccines which are offered to all students in 1st year of 2nd level school. These vaccines are usually offered during two visits to the school, one in the 1st term and one 5 to 6 months later.
HPV vaccine protects against 9 types of HPV virus. HPV virus can cause a range of pre-cancerous lesions in both men and women.
HPV virus causes:
- Almost all cervical cancers
- 5 out of 10 vulval cancers
- 7 out of 10 vaginal cancers
- 9 out of 10 HPV-related anal cancers
- 9 out of 10 incidences of genital warts.
- HPV infection is also associated with cancers of:
- The mouth and throat (oropharynx)
- The back passage (the rectum)
- The penis
MenACWY (Nimenrix) vaccine protects against four types of meningococcal disease which can cause meningitis and /or septicaemia.
MenACWY vaccine reduces meningococcal bacteria in nasal passages and so can also prevent transmission of disease to other children and teenagers
MenACWY vaccine was introduced in the school immunisation programme during 2019/2020 school year, because of an increase in cases of invasive meningococcal disease caused by serogroups W and Y between 2015 and 2018.
Tdap vaccine protects against:
• Tetanus (tetanus toxin from Clostridium tetani bacteria can cause painful muscle spasms and convulsions)
• Diphtheria (bacteria that can cause a sore throat and severe breathing difficulties)
• Pertussis (whooping cough) (a bacteria also known as whooping cough and causes severe coughing and vomiting)
As children, students will have received 4 doses of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
A 5th dose of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in Tdap is required to boost protection against infection in students at the age they are in 1st year.
Immunisation is the best protection against these serious infections and schools have an important role to play.
By working together, schools and HSE school immunisation teams can ensure this essential service can continue so that our students are protected.
More information at www.immunisation.ie