Laura Fahey, Community Medical Doctor, talks to the NIO about her work as part of the school vaccination team.
The HSE school vaccination teams deliver vaccinations to Junior Infants and First Year students across Ireland each school year.
For vaccination teams, it’s our pleasure to immunise children in junior infants and first years in second level school. We get to meet and interact with so many people on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic part of the job.
It’s also so important because of the ability to prevent potentially serious disease with vaccines which is hugely beneficial to us all. For instance the 4 in 1 and Tdap vaccines which are given in junior infants and second level school prevent tetanus. So with each and every scrape and cut that we get from childhood into adulthood, these vaccines prevent tetanus. Tetanus can lead to hospitalisation, so it really is remarkable the protection these vaccines give.
I am also hugely proud of HPV vaccinations as it prevents HPV related cancer including cancer of the cervix, penis and anus. HPV causes 1 in 20 cancers worldwide. The fact that these are also freely available as part of the schools programme is another wonderful part of these vaccinations in Ireland.
What can parents/guardians and students expect on the day of vaccination?
School vaccination teams link in with schools to book dates, and parents and guardians are notified at the start of the school year. Each child is given is a date for their vaccination, and on the day the class is called up one by one.
The vaccines are given usually in a class room or sometimes the gym. It usually entails two vaccines one given in each arm. Ideally the children would wear a short-sleeve t-shirt or shirt that can be easily rolled up to shoulder, so that the vaccine can be easily given.
For children in junior infants we help the child by making the process as quick as possible and we distract them with their immunisation stickers. The children get a “you’ve been vaccinated” sticker once they’re done. The stickers are very popular with the children, they love putting them on their jumpers or tops straight away!
For the first year students, we chat to them about school or sport to make them feel at ease. We are organised and have everything ready to go for them. The needles are covered so they can’t see them before the vaccines are given. We do come across some students that are nervous but we find that once we do the identity check we give the vaccine as quick as possible so they are not getting further worked up. In fact, they are always quite relieved after it and say it’s not as bad as they thought it was going to be
And after the vaccination?
After they have been given their vaccines we encourage them to drink plenty of fluids for the day. We get them to move their arms as much as they can to limit the soreness from the vaccine. We observe the child for 15 minutes after the vaccine, they spend this time chatting and playing with their friends. We tell them they can go about their day as normal. They can participate in sports and school activities provided that they feel okay. Sometimes there can be a mild vaccine response which will settle within 24 hours. We advise that if there is a mild temperature after vaccination or if the child is off form they can take paracetamol if needed.
We also offer some advice for when Junior Infants get their MMR vaccines. We tell parents that children can get ‘mini measles’ 6-10 days after the vaccine. It can appear as a rash on the body and it is not infectious or contagious. Your child can still go to school, and it isn’t anything to worry about as it is a vaccine response. ‘Mini measles’ is mentioned on the vaccine information sheet and is not uncommon.
Rarely some children can get ‘mini mumps’ 3 weeks after the vaccine. This will look like swollen lymph nodes under the chin and it is also not infectious or contagious and they can continue to go to school.
These side effects are a response to vaccine and if the child is well they don’t need any further medical help or intervention.
Visit the school immunisation section for information about the vaccines available through the HSE School Programme
This page was added on 8 September 2022