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Award is shot in the arm for service vaccinating children with important immunisation

Image shows a group of women standing

A Swansea Bay service is leading the way in Wales by ensuring thousands of school children are protected from potentially developing cancer later in life.

Image shows a group of women standing The School Nursing Service delivers a range of vaccinations including flu, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and human papillomavirus (HPV) to children across 31 secondary schools across Swansea Bay.

The team exceeded the national average rate of HPV vaccinations by more than 15 per cent, and Swansea Bay became the first health board in Wales to reach the Welsh Government’s 90 per cent target for HPV.

PICTURED: The team gave 3,500 doses of HPV to schoolchildren across Swansea Bay.

HPV is a very common group of viruses which usually has no symptoms. Most people who become infected clear it from their body. But others may go on to develop a range of cancers in later life  – ranging from cervical cancer to some types of head and neck cancer – which were caused by the virus.

HPV is usually spread through intimate sexual contact that can lead to genital warts, which can be difficult to treat.

The vaccine is usually given at the age of 12 to 13 to protect them before coming into contact with the virus.

The vaccination was given to 3,500 children across the region, which has earned the service recognition via an award, and other Welsh health boards have now adopted its model.

Image shows a group of women standing Victoria Kiernan, Deputy Head of Nursing Children and Young People and the Professional Lead Nurse for School Nursing and Looked after Children, said: “The team works incredibly hard and we are small in numbers given the amount of work involved, but ensuring children are protected from various diseases drives us on.

“The HPV vaccine is hugely important for school children to have, and to have met the 90 per cent target set by Welsh Government is a great achievement, particularly as we are the only health board to have achieved this.

PICTURED: The team exceeded the national average rate of HPV vaccinations by more than 15 per cent.

“Other health boards want to meet with us to see how we’ve met this target so that they can improve their service. One health board has already increased its uptake by 20 per cent in one school after they changed their process to the one we use.

“It’s not just us as a team and health board – we are keen to share the ways that have worked for us with our counterparts across the country because making sure the children of Wales are protected is the most important thing.”

Along with giving the vaccinations, the service also provides information to parents, children, guardians and teachers about its importance along with liaising with the local authority, Public Health Wales and health visitors.

For any child aged 12-13 who has missed the vaccination, the service ensures they can have it in the following school year. If children aren’t immunised by the end of year 10, they are signposted to the GP to have it.

Image shows a group of women standing Victoria added: “The education sessions are a very important part of our work. Since Covid, they have been needed to reinforce and educate children, young people and families on the importance regarding immunisations.

“Parents and guardians were obviously a big part of it, while we also spoke to children at confidential drop-ins.

PICTURED: The efforts of the team has led to fellow health board adopting the same methods.

“Each school get a public health session and information session before we undertake the vaccination session. That could be a discussion in the classroom, part of assembly or in a parents evening.

“From that session, consent forms are delivered. If they’re returned within a certain time then a nurses ensure the child has the vaccine. Our goal is to ensure every child eligible has the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“We also work alongside the new immunisation team that has recently been developed in the health board. It ensures the governance of all immunisations are maintained and helps us identify gaps and areas we need support in, and then they help us reach those communities.”

The service’s efforts were rewarded at the Vaccinations Save Lives awards held during a Welsh Immunisations Conference, where they won the Team Award for School Nursing.

Their success has quickly caught attention from outside of the NHS.

Image shows a group of women standing Victoria added: “Representatives from services that contribute to delivering immunisations   across Wales were invited to the awards, which celebrated the hard work which has gone on to increase vaccinations.

“It was a real achievement for us to have picked up the award. It reflects the hard work of the team.

PICTURED: The team became the first health board in Wales to reach the Welsh Government target.

“Following our success, we presented our operational strategies at a special interest group which included companies around the UK. That gives us further confirmation that our approach is the right one.”

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