With a school-based vaccination programme about to get underway in South Canterbury, the region’s health board is turning to social media to boost its low uptake.
In April the SCDHB revealed that a Timaru primary school, Grantlea Downs, was refusing to allow its pupils to be given the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) on school premises.
The health board also announced the vaccination’s uptake rate through its school-based immunisation programme was just 37 per cent, compared to rates in the 65 to 80 per cent bracket at neighbouring DHBs.
The region’s HPV immunisation rate also compared unfavourably to a national uptake of 66 per cent among those born in 2002, the most recent cohort to be vaccinated across school-based and primary care vaccination programmes.
* Timaru school opts out of vaccine programme
* Grantlea Downs not only school preventing on-site vaccinations
* Timaru schools says stance is about parental choice
* South Canterbury HPV vaccine decline highest in NZ
* Health Board turning to social media to improve HPV rates
The second round of the HPV school-based immunisation programme was due to be carried out in South Canterbury between September 18 and 29.
Since April, DHB staff have repeatedly mentioned using social media to try and counteract “negative” information around immunisation on social media platforms.
On Friday South Canterbury medical officer of health, Dr Daniel Williams, said the DHB was aware that social media was a “key source of information for young people and their parents”.
“But when it comes to immunisation, social media can be misleading.”
Since 2007 Community and Public Health (CPH) and the health board had been working on a collaborative health promotion scheme called Wellbeing and Vitality in Education (WAVE).
Williams said the WAVE Facebook page was an “already a trusted source of health information for families and teachers in South Canterbury”.
“This year the district health board and the WAVE team have been using the WAVE Facebook page as a way of sharing reliable information about HPV and other immunisations, with support from the National Immunisation Advisory Centre.”
He said the social media page had a particular focus on HPV during the school-based vaccination campaign and National Immunisation Week.
“Most of the information we’ve shared on Facebook has been sourced from the Ministry of Health, and we’ve had good feedback and ‘likes’ from visitors to the page.”
SCDHB director patient, nursing and midwifery, Lisa Blackler, said social media presented an “exciting opportunity” for the health board.
“There are good existing resources about immunisation prepared for families and whanau by the Health Promotion Agency and Ministry of Health.
“The DHB now needs to continue to explore effective ways to share these messages so they are accessible to everyone and social media is great way to do this.
“We work with interested parties on the communication of the school based immunisation programme, and the use of social media is one element to this.”
Earlier this year, Ministry of Health child and youth health chief advisor Dr Pat Tuohy visited and spoke at the South Canterbury Principals Association (SCCA) Forum.
Tuohy said his role was to “help health professionals work with families to protect children against vaccine preventable diseases … through advocacy at national, regional and sometimes local level for the immunisation programme”.
SCCA president Jane Culhane said the outcome of the meeting had been a positive discussion among teachers on how to provide information to parents in the community around immunisation.
Culhane said they discussed “what are the ways that work”?, to ensure parents were able to make “informed decisions” and “how do we make sure they get that information?”.
“You aren’t going to get good take up [of vaccinations] if people don’t know.
“We provide the information, that information has to be easily accessible and readily accessible, in a form that’s understood, it’s making sure it’s right there for them.”
Culhane said that in her experience social media was a good way of keeping parents informed and updated.
“It’s more effective than traditional ways, it’s more immediate … that’s quite helpful for families that have probably in the past had some difficulty reaching information.”