The Australian school-based HPV vaccination program
The National Immunisation Program provides the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine free during school-based vaccination sessions for children aged 12–13 years.
Nationally, almost four in five children receive their HPV vaccination through this free school-based vaccine program. Children who do not receive their HPV vaccination at school can also receive it at their doctor’s clinic, local immunisation service or sometimes at their local pharmacy.
The HPV vaccine is delivered differently across different States and Territories in Australia.
To learn more about these differences, and how you can get the HPV vaccine where you live, visit our How to get the HPV vaccine page.
How to prepare students for their HPV vaccine
With most children receiving the HPV vaccine through the school-based immunisation program, schools play a vital role in informing students, their parents/carers and teachers about the vaccine.
It’s a good idea to nominate one person from your school who can be the main point of contact for the external immunisation team who will come to administer the HPV vaccine at your school.
Your local council should be able to support you in contacting an immunisation team who will have resources to assist you with communicating about the vaccine, obtaining consent from parents and guardians, and running the program smoothly.
Once school vaccination dates have been made with your immunisation team, you can include them in your school’s calendar, in your communications with students and their parents, and on your website.
It’s important that teachers are also provided with information about the vaccine so they can answer any questions students or parents may have.
Consent form processes differ from school-to-school, and council-to-council. Sometimes consent forms are electronic, other times they might be in hard copy. Ask your council immunisation team about what the process is in your area.
If your school is responsible for the distribution and return of consent forms, consider making them part of the enrolment process or you can distribute them very early in the new school year.
If there are concerns or evidence that consent cards are not being given to parents, consider sending them to parents and guardians directly rather than via students.
Other ways to remind parents and carers about consent forms include:
- send a reminder letter
- make an announcement at school assembly
- place a small article in the school newsletter
- send reminder emails or SMS texts
- follow up students that have not returned their consent cards by giving the student a second consent card to take home.
Returned consent forms will be collected by the immunisation team either prior to or on immunisation day. They are used on immunisation day to record vaccinations given.
We recommend schools provide the following information to parents and guardians:
- Send an explanatory letter home with the consent form. It's a good idea to include:
- your local immunisation team's phone number
- the following paragraph for parents and guardians who don't read or speak English well: The Commonwealth website has translated brochures and posters in several languages. Your State/Territory health department can also be contacted for translated HPV resources. If your language is not included, call the Telephone Interpretation Service on 13 14 50 and ask to speak to the National Immunisation Hotline on 1800 671 811.
- Consider sending some further reading material home with the consent form and explain why this vaccine is offered through schools.
- Include an article in your school newsletter and/or website. You can also mention it in a meeting or ask teachers to share it with their class. The HPV vaccine day should also be included in your school calendar so people have as much notice as possible to prepare.
Before or soon after consent forms are sent home, we recommend schools provide the following information which you can find on this website, to students in an assembly or during a lesson:
It's important to ensure that all students have a basic understanding of HPV and what the vaccine is for.
Once consent forms have been returned, we recommend schools provide the following information to students receiving the vaccine in assembly or a special lesson:
- The timetable for the day – what will happen and where.
- What to wear on vaccination day – sports clothing or short sleeves may allow better access to the upper arm.
- Reminder to have a good breakfast, avoid too much activity on the day of the vaccination.
- If they are nervous, either they or their parents/carers can ask to be vaccinated first so they don’t have to wait as long.
- Reactions to the vaccine are very rare, but if they do have a reaction to tell an immunisation nurse, teacher or parent/guardian.
Information for vaccination day
A student’s experience on vaccination day can impact whether they have other vaccinations.
The following tips will help you run a successful vaccination day in your school.
Scheduling, location and vaccination process
People aged between 9 to 25 living in Australia receive one dose the HPV vaccine, unless they are immunocompromised. Immunocompromised people may still need three doses of the HPV vaccine.
If a child missed their vaccination day, your vaccination team should send a letter to the student and their parents with instructions on how to arrange a catch-up dose.
Learn how people can catch up on vaccinations.
Here are some tips about scheduling:
- Try to hold the vaccination day early in the school year.
- It’s best to vaccinate students early in the day to lessen anxiety.
- It’s best to vaccinate anxious students first so as not to alarm others.
- Avoid having too many students queuing as this can increase anxiety – one class or less at a time is best.
Ensure the room you choose to vaccinate students in has the following facilities:
- moderate temperature
- good ventilation
- low noise level
- is away from stairs or concrete
- chairs for the student/s being vaccinated and the immunisation nurse/s, and tables/desks for nurses and administration staff equipment
- screen to protect the privacy of the student/s being vaccinated
- drinking water available
- an adjacent or nearby observation area will be required, with ample chairs for vaccinated students to be monitored for 15 minutes; drinking water; and books/magazines/TV/iPads as these are a good distraction technique which can ease anxiety.
Ensure the rooms you use for vaccinating and observing students allow smooth flow between them.
Check whether food and drink are needed for the immunisation nurse/s and schedule a break for them.
Information for school staff
School staff should be rostered to assist on all vaccination days to allow:
- one staff member to monitor the queue and check consent forms on entry
- one staff member (or an older student volunteer) to act as a ‘runner' and bring new classes to the queue when necessary
- one staff member to monitor students in the observation room for 15 minutes then send them back to class or observe them for longer as appropriate
- one spare member of staff.
Staff assisting should be calm, supportive and not dismiss student concerns. If possible, they should be known to students.
If allocating the three to four staff members above to assist is not possible, consider getting a contract nurse or ambulance volunteer to act as an assistant.
Other important information for school staff:
- Consider any students who may not be comfortable with staff members of the opposite gender or have additional requirements when they receive the vaccine.
- Let other staff know if students will need to leave their class to receive the vaccine.
- On vaccination day, your immunisation team will give all immunised students a fact sheet on common reactions to vaccines to take home.
- Ask your immunisation team if they would like to be contacted directly if the school becomes aware of any reactions that have occurred.
After vaccination day
After each vaccination day, make notes with potential improvements to the process.
Check with your immunisation team if the school can assist with the follow up of missed doses by developing a follow-up procedure.
You may wish to send a letter to alert parents and guardians to give them information about what to do if their child missed a dose.