Thursday 21 October 2021

Vaccinations in School

Covid-19 has become a huge part of our lives and no matter where we live in the country, we've felt the impact of this global pandemic.  Vaccinations mandates have been set down for everyone who works in schools (even in a voluntary capacity, even for just a one off moment or a short time).  All of us who work at Te Kura o Tawatawa | Ridgway School are working towards being fully vaccinated by the 1 January next year.

There is a huge amount of information and mis-information relating to vaccinations circling around in our networks and news channels, and it can be hard to know who to listen to.  All of us have to be discerning in selecting who to listen to and who to ignore when deciding where to go for our information and make sure the information we take on board is accurate and reliable .  The Ministry of Education communicate with school leaders via a bulletin that is emailed directly to principals.  Usually this Bulletin would be sent out every couple of weeks.  During Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 these bulletins were sent out daily.  The Ministry continue to communicate with principals several times a week to pass on the most up to date details, facts and guidelines.  In the last few weeks, they have had a lot to say about vaccinations in order to support school leaders support staff to get good reliable information and to help schools follow the guidelines and requirements surrounding the vaccination mandate for workers in schools.  

I've copied below this summary of information from the Ministry of Education as it may be useful for some of you in our wider school community.

Kathryn Smith

Why get vaccinated?

We’ve talked a lot about vaccinations in our bulletins lately, but we’re aware that in many school communities there continues to be anxiety about vaccinations – and some may even wonder why vaccines are being emphasised so strongly.
As noted, the Ministry of Health have set up a dedicated email you can use for queries about vaccinations and access to vaccination. Email with your queries.

Reasons to get vaccinated
Without vaccines, we’re at risk of serious illness, disability or even death from things like the measles, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus and polio – and now COVID-19.
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s natural resistance by training our immune systems to create antibodies.
Here are a few reasons why vaccinations are good – for everyone:
  • they can prevent us from getting sick
  • they are safe
  • they can save lives
  • they will not cause a disease they are designed to prevent
  • they can help protect the community
  • prevention is much better than treatment.
In a nutshell, by getting vaccinated, we are protecting ourselves, our loved ones and those around us. Most people can be vaccinated, but those who cannot be – including very young babies, those who are seriously ill or have certain allergies – they depend on us to be vaccinated to ensure they are also safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.
These are the reasons the Government is requiring the education workforce to be vaccinated by 1 January 2022.
It’s important to know that licensed vaccines have been rigorously tested across multiple phases before being approved for use.
See more information on the Ministry of Health website.

Addressing vaccine misinformation

Here are some answers to common questions that may be helpful.

How does the vaccine work?
The COVID-19 vaccine works by teaching your body to fight the virus and protects you from
getting sick:
  1. The vaccine sends a set of instructions to teach your body how to fight the COVID-19 virus.
  2. With these instructions your body learns to recognise the COVID-19 virus and use antibodies against it. Antibodies stop the virus from infecting your cells and help to kill it.
  3. That means if you come into contact with the COVID-19 virus in the future, your body will have the right tools to protect itself so you are less likely to get sick.

Is the vaccine safe?
The Pfizer vaccine has been thoroughly assessed for safety by our own Medsafe experts.
Medsafe only grants consent for using a vaccine in Aotearoa once they’re satisfied it has met strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality.
This is the same process used to assess other vaccines, like the flu, measles, and tetanus vaccines. There have been no shortcuts taken in granting approval.
The Pfizer vaccine has been used successfully by millions worldwide and is highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. It continues to be monitored for safety.

Why was it developed so quickly?
Because the mRNA vaccine is not new technology and has been studied for over a decade, including for the development of other vaccines such as the seasonal flu vaccine, researchers had a head start.
This is the first time scientists and governments from around the world have united to develop a vaccine. This global collaboration meant they could spend an enormous amount of time and money into developing the vaccines very quickly without taking any shortcuts in the necessary processes or compromising safety. This also meant that the various stages of research development happened at the same time.

What I can expect when I get the vaccine?

You can book through your GP or through vaccination centres: When you arrive to receive your vaccination, the vaccinator will offer you the opportunity to ask any questions.

You will need to relax and sit still. Some find it helpful to listen to music, or you may choose to have a support person with you.

The vaccinator will then inject the vaccine into your arm. You can look away or close your eyes if you need to. You may feel a pinch or scratch when the needle goes in.

You’ll then be asked to get your second dose of the vaccine six weeks or more after your first dose.

Are there any side effects?
It is common to experience mild side effects, such as muscle aches, pain at the injection site or headaches.
These are more commonly reported after the second dose and are actually a sign that your body’s immune system is learning to fight the virus. They don’t last long and won’t stop you from having a second dose or going about your daily life.
There are some side effects that are more serious but very rare, like a severe allergic reaction or an inflammation of the heart. If you develop difficulty breathing, a racing heart, chest pain or feel faint immediately or in the days after the vaccine, you should seek medical attention.

Further information
The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 guidance will provide you with the facts to help communicate with your community.

Here are links to some downloadable PDFs:
 The Unite Against COVID-19 website also has content about misinformation and scams which may also be helpful for you and for your community.
If you see something about COVID-19 or the vaccine that doesn’t seem right or if it’s on social media, you can report it to the platform. Anything else can be reported to CERT NZ.

Working through vaccine hesitancy

Here is a range of resources available to inform people who are anxious about the vaccine.

Videos Articles
My COVID record 
Anyone aged 16 and over can now access a record of their COVID-19 vaccinations through My Covid Record.
The records include details of the vaccinations you’ve had including date, time, location and batch number. You will initially need to register and create and account.
You can also request proof of your vaccination here.

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