THE SWINE flu vaccination programme will begin in schools on Monday, the HSE has confirmed.
A spokeswoman said larger schools would be visited first by vaccination teams “to get higher numbers done in the first batches”.
The HSE has written to the first schools being targeted and others will be written to in coming weeks. All school staff will also be offered the vaccination.
The move marks the extension of the programme from at-risk groups, women who are more than 14 weeks pregnant and up to six weeks after birth, people over 65 and children aged between six months and five years.
By the time this phase of the programme is completed, some time early next year, everyone under the age of 18 and over six months will have been offered the vaccination.
The letters to schools will outline arrangements and vaccination packs will be provided to be sent home to parents with a consent form. Children over 16 will be able to sign their own consent forms.
A HSE spokeswoman said it would not be possible for teams to go into every individual school and in some instances a number of schools may be invited to bring their pupils to another school on the day vaccinations are being administered there.
In other cases pupils and staff will be advised to attend a HSE vaccination clinic and appointments for these children should be made by their parents or guardians.
Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe has urged schools to co-operate, acknowledging that it will mean some disruption to school timetables.
Medical advice is that children under 13 will require two doses of the vaccine and that those 13 and over may need a second dose.
“The HSE is, therefore, initially focusing on vaccinating all children and arrangements for how the second dose will be given, to those that require it, will be advised by the HSE at a later date.”
Separately, a number of parents of under-fives who have received HSE letters inviting them to bring their children for vaccination, have complained of being unable to access HSE clinics in the Dublin area.
One father of two said yesterday that the clinic he had been advised to attend, Cabinteely Health Centre, was fully booked.
A HSE spokeswoman advised parents to bring children to the local HSE clinic with their letter, adding “they won’t be turned away”.