School aged routine immunisations have been one of the most effective public health measures ever. It is because of them that our people – young and old – are protected against diseases such as tetanus, polio, diphtheria and meningitis.
And schools are of course healthcare professionals’ trusted partners in providing a base, place and tremendous logistical support for vaccinating thousands of young people every year. When the Covid pandemic hit, both schools and vaccinators had to go the extra mile – and they did.
One such school is the Warriner School in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. It is a large comprehensive secondary and sixth form school with some 1,400 pupils.
Assistant headteacher Alex Greenhalgh says:
“We are very supportive of public health and children’s health. Of course, we’ve been having the pandemic but at the same time we don’t want any other conditions to escalate. Giving our pupils access to vaccines is vital.”
To this end, the Warriner School worked with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s school nurses and immunisation team to organise Covid-secure sessions to make sure all young people could get their school aged routine immunisations.
“We did a site risk assessment and worked with Susan Mahoney, the immunisation team lead, to ensure that the immunisation session went ahead, despite the school being closed.”
Oxford Health’s immunisation team and school nurses booked the pupils in and worked with the school to run the session adhering to all Covid secure measures.
“Working together we managed to vaccinate 85 per cent of the age group who were due their vaccinations,” Alex says.
“The biggest challenge for us is logistics: to get pupils out of lessons on time and to find a good enough space when all our halls are used for classes,” he says.
Immunising the hundreds of pupils went smoothly.
“Vast majority of pupils get their vaccines without any fuss, and the nurses are very aware of how to support those who might feel nervous. The school also provides pastoral support on the immunisation days.”
As part of the school’s senior management team, Alex is also the Designated Safeguarding Lead, and lead for special educational needs and disabilities at the Warriner. He feels that the pandemic has shone a light in schools’ role in supporting children and young people’s health and wellbeing.
“I think people are now more aware of how schools are a key agency for safeguarding. Other professionals don’t have the opportunity to see children every day, for six hours a day,” he points out.
“Our safeguarding was as busy as ever during the two lockdowns. We did welfare checks and visits dropping off laptops. In the second lockdown we made sure we reached out to vulnerable children and integrated them back to school before the lockdown ended.”
World Immunisation Week
The last week of April is the World Immunisation Week, an annual campaign by the World Health Organisation WHO, and Oxford Health school nurses and immunisation team are shining a light on children’s routine immunisations. They want to ensure all children who are due their immunisations are given an opportunity to have them.
Immunisation team lead Susan Mahoney explains:
“The best place for children to receive these vaccinations is at school. Because of school closures or vulnerable parents self-isolating, many children have missed their routine immunisations. But it is never too late to catch up. Get in touch with the immunisation team or talk to your school nurse, and we’ll make a plan,” she urges.
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