11 Sep 2019

School nurses get equipped to administer measles jab

6:13 pm on 11 September 2019

School nurses are finally being signed off as vaccinators to reach 17,000 or so Auckland high school students who may not have had the MMR jab.

Cheryl Gabric, a nurse at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate

Nurse educator Rani Joseph with Cheryl Gabric at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Dozens of nurses are doing their final practical assessments at the Manukau Superclinic this week, where they give two jabs under supervision.

Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate's school nurse Cheryl Gabric did her final assessment at the clinic.

"It's pretty exciting really I can't wait just in terms of making sure our tamariki are looked after and to stop the spread of this horrible disease."

Ms Gabric said about 70 students at the Ōtara school weren't immunised.

She is among 25 school nurses who will give measles vaccines at 34 high schools in South Auckland.

Three schools have started vaccinating on campus, the rest are expected to begin next week.

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Nurse educator Rani Joseph Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Counties Manukau DHB child, youth and maternity general manager Carmel Ellis said they had fast-tracked the nurses' training to target schools.

"We will potentially reach an additional 17,000 young people through this programme. We don't quite know what the number of unimmunised students will be but if we look at our coverage at the moment in terms of people coming into our pop-up clinics we are struggling with the 15 to 29 age group."

Laura Williams is the lead nurse at Māngere College, where 200 students have not yet had the measles vaccine.

She passed her final assessment at the Manukau Superclinic this week and said she was looking forward to rolling out the jab at the school.

"We have a captive audience, I mean we haven't kidnapped the children, but we've got these kids who are attending school each day and if they've consented to it and want to get their measles vaccination then I'm able to do it, and this is the perfect environment to do it," Ms Williams said.

MMR vaccines need to be stored at a low temperature and specially kitted out containers - with a temperature sensor and alarm - will be couriered to Auckland schools each day.

MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Health authorities say the programme is an important weapon in the war against measles spreading.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service has been inundated with notifications of measles cases for months.

Its Medical Officer of Health William Rainger said the onus was on parents to inform their children's school if their child had a confirmed case of measles, rather than the regional public health service.

"The sheer volume of institutions that have been affected means that we have wanted to change the process in this way. It's very important for early childhood services and schools to know at any time they can call the regional public health service and we will provide them with advice on how they should respond," Dr Rainger said.

Meanwhile, health authorities are urging everyone to check their immunisation status and get vaccinated against the measles.

Measles information:

  • If you are showing symptoms, call a doctor but stay at home - do not visit the GP as you could spread the disease at the waiting room
  • Measles symptoms include a fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough, followed a few days later by a rash usually starting on the face before moving down the body
  • You can have measles and spread it to other people before you start to show any symptoms or feel sick
  • It can take about two weeks to be fully immune after being vaccinated
  • Healthline offers free advice and has a translator service 0800 611 116
  • Measles has a 90 percent infection rate, meaning nine out of 10 non-immue people who come into contact with an infectious person contract the disease
  • Measles is a serious disease, and can lead to complications including pneumonia and in rarer cases brain damage or even death

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