Immunisation In Secondary School: Just The Facts
In the UK we have one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world.
This means that dangerous diseases, such as polio, diphtheria or tuberculosis, have pretty much disappeared in the UK.
But, these diseases could come back into the UK – if we stop vaccinating. These diseases are still around in many countries throughout the world, which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re protected!
What, where, when, who?
The following immunisations are offered in school, and are no longer available at your GP surgery:
In Year 8, from September 2023, both girls and boys will be offered 1 dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. If you’re absent on the day the vaccine is given in school, don’t worry as the immunisation team will make sure they see you at another time.
Additionally, in Year 8, if you didn’t receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine when you were younger, you will also be offered a single dose of MMR at the same time as your HPV vaccination. This is because there has been a significant rise in the number of cases of measles in recent years.
In Year 9, both girls and boys will be given two immunisations:
- Teenage booster – which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and polio
- Meningitis booster – which protects against A, C, W and Y strains of meningitis
The immunisations are given in school by healthcare professionals (nurses) who are very experienced at giving injections. Both injections are usually given one after the other, into the muscle at the top of your arm. It’s usual for them to be given into the opposite arm to the one you write with. This is because your arm may feel a little achy afterwards and the nurses don’t want to stop you from continuing with your school work!
Some secondary school aged children are eligible for the nasal spray flu vaccine, information about who is eligible can be found here on the NHS website.
The gelatine used in the manufacture of the nasal flu vaccine is not acceptable for some parents, therefore, for this flu season, parents will be able to opt for a gelatine-free injection instead. When making a decision to opt for the injectable vaccine, it’s important to be aware that the gelatine-free injection:
- Is less effective than the nasal flu
- An injection into the muscle at the top of the arm can be uncomfortable; therefore your presence may be required
- The injectable vaccine will be available later in the flu season and is dependent on stock levels. This means there may be a delay receiving it
Depending on where you live you and your vaccination history, your parents will either receive information about how to give consent via email or text from school, or via a letter sent to your home address.
Some people get a headache and have general muscle aches for a day or two following your immunisations. These are very normal reactions to vaccinations and nothing to worry about. Let your parent or carer know if you do feel unwell and make sure you eat and drink well on the day of vaccinations.
Before you have your immunisation, the health care professional will ask you some questions. For example:
- Are you feeling well today?
- Are you taking any medicines?
- Have you had any recent immunisations?
- Have you had a bad reaction to any immunisations in the past?
- Do you have any allergies?
- Do you have a bleeding disorder? (When you cut or bump yourself, if you bleed or bruise really badly we would like to know about it)
- Are you receiving treatment at a hospital or from a doctor?
We would also need to know if anyone is pregnant or thinks they could be pregnant. This is important for us to know, and can be discussed with the nurse in private.
How will I feel after the immunisation?
- You may have a sore, red arm – this is normal and nothing to worry about. It’s important to keep your arm moving as normal and carry on with your day.
- It’s common to have a headache, raised temperature or achy joints for a couple of days after the immunisation. It could be the body’s natural response, or you could just have caught a different virus.
- It’s very important to drink plenty of fluids, such as water, to keep your body hydrated. You may wish to take a dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. Please discuss this with an adult first and always follow the instructions on the packaging of these medications.
- More serious side effects are very rare. The vaccines used meet rigorous safety standards to be licenced for the UK Immunisation Programme.
- It’s best and really great if you share the information about the immunisation with your parent/carer and complete the consent form together
- It’s ok to make the decision yourself, but make sure you have all of the information and talk to the immunisation nurse on the day who will answer any questions you might have
- If you don’t have your parent or carer’s consent, it doesn’t mean you can’t have the immunisation. The immunisation nurse will to talk to you to make sure it’s safe
How to get help
If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.
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Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.