When Timaru’s Grantlea Downs School opted to withdraw from a nationwide HPV immunisation programme last month, it also told the South Canterbury District Health Board it did not want students spoken to about the vaccine on site.
Emails released to Fairfax by the school’s Board of Trustees show principal Collette Sandilands informed the SCDHB of the school’s decision to withdraw from the programme on March 7 following a board meeting on March 6.
In the email, Sandilands states “…our Board decided against having the HPV being conducted on sight (sic) at our school and that we wish for our families to instead contact their GP or yourself directly to arrange any vaccinations effective immediately”.
Sandilands said the school was still prepared to “put in the newsletter or distribute any supplied information from yourself to help families make informed decisions but we do not wish for our students to be vaccinated or spoken to about this in the future on our school site”.
READ MORE: * Timaru school opts out of vaccine programme* Timaru school says HPV stance about choice and safety * Grantlea Downs not only school preventing on site vaccinations
On January 27 the SCDHB sent a letter to principals and boards of trustees outlining its HPV immunisation programme.
The letter explained the HPV9 vaccine, which was also being offered to year 8 boys for the first time, protected against nine types of HPV. The letter included proposed dates for vaccination and also advised further information could be found on two websites. It was accompanied by an information leaflet which addressed the safety of the vaccine and a section on ‘who should not be vaccinated’.
Grantlea Downs School sent a four paragraph consent letter to parents on February 20 indicating the vaccination programme would start on February 22 with a visit from the public health nurse to “discuss HPV with the children and she will provide them with consent forms and have a ten minute video for them to view also”.
The letter did not include any of the information relating to the vaccine which had been provided by the SCDHB in its correspondence on January 27.
In an email, sent the same day the school’s consent letter went out, board of trustees member Annaleisha Coombes told Sandilands “A bit of discussion is going on between parents at the moment regarding this vaccine. Is there any information offered by the school for parents?”.
Coombes’ email outlined that the consent letter had been received but contained “absolutely no information for parents whatsoever”. In the email she also asked whether schools “have to sign up to this? And of (sic) so what info do we get on it?”
The email concludes “Personally I have said no to it … until I can do my own research but I am concerned about how many will just sign the consent without really knowing much”.
On February 22, Coombes sent another email requesting the matter be added to the next board meeting.
“Hopefully I’m not too late to add this to Agenda. Wanting to have a discussion please on the responsibilities for school/BOT in regards to the HPV vaccination.”
The minutes of the board meeting on March 6 show the matter was raised under general matters.
“Annaleisha queried the Board’s obligations around vaccinations by the Ministry of Health at school and information being given to students with little or no information to give informed parental consent.”
The minutes then state “Collette ensured (sic) the Board that they have the right to stop vaccinations being given at school via the Public Health Nurse and instead would provide families with information from the Ministry of Health but families would need to organise their own vaccinations through their own GP.”
During the meeting a motion was moved by Sandilands and seconded by Coombes with the resolution stated in the minutes “that the Board are happy to send out information on behalf of the Ministry of Health but do not wish the information afternoons to be targeted at the children on site or vaccinations to be carried out at school”.
The minutes also state “The newsletter will advise that those students (parents) that gave permission will need to take their children to their own GP”.
When contacted Coombes said she had “no further comment to make”.