21 Jun 2021

Principals respond to vaccine at school proposal

From Checkpoint, 5:45 pm on 21 June 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested teenagers may get the Covid-19 vaccine at school.

Medsafe has given the green light for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to people as young as 12.

Ardern says ministry officials will now provide advice on how best to roll it out to the 265,000 school children in the age band.

Vaughan Couillault is the principal of Papatoetoe High School and the president of the Secondary Principals Association.

He said sufficient time, resources and training would need to be provided to make the programme a success within schools.

"Anything's doable. The devil's always in the detail."

Now that Medsafe has given its approval, he expects planning to be stepped up.

He is expecting the Ministry of Education to get in touch with key bodies who work in the sector to see if it is feasible to hold clinics for teen students in schools or if there may be another option that would work better.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault

Vaughan Couillault Photo: RNZ

Asked if it was an enormous job, he said conversations are being held to expand the number of people who can vaccinate although this planning is not happening on the school campuses yet.

"However, when you have got a large group of teenagers that you need to get to, the natural place to go to is school ...how can we tap into the fact that they are all geographically in the same space."

Consent will be needed and then each student would need to spend about 15 minutes in recovery after being vaccinated.

School nurses have administered some immunisations when necessary such as for the measles outbreak, Couillault said.

"We've got precedent to work on and let's hope we can be as supportive as we can be of the programme."

He said in the immediate future the school and the suburb will be a bit distracted as they recover from the tornado that hit Papatoetoe on Saturday.