Because schools require all children to receive certain vaccines in order to enroll, schools are in a unique position to influence immunization rates. School-based interventions can help students, parents, teachers and administrators increase immunization rates. This can happen through different types of support. For example, schools can provide information about immunizations or offer free or low-cost immunizations to students and staff through collaborative efforts with local public health agencies or the state health department. Schools are also good resources for the broader community. School-based interventions should provide plenty of resources and support to teachers, administrators and staff.
School-based interventions work best when used with interventions in other settings:
- Community-based settings: schools can host or sponsor immunization opportunities for community members
- Worksite-based settings: worksites can develop flexible work leave policies that make parent participation in school activities an option for employees or sponsor work site immunization services
- Faith-based settings: schools can let faith-based organizations use school facilities and equipment to host and/or sponsor events that encourage members to become immunized
- Health care facility-based settings: school nurses can refer students or families to health care providers for catch-up immunizations and provide education resources
- Home-based settings: schools can send letters to parents educating them about updated immunization recommendations and educational resources
Things to consider for school-based interventions:
- Schools work with students, teachers and parents most days of the week. Information about immunizations can be given in many ways. For example, schools have parent newsletters, student newspapers or daily announcements. These can be used to help encourage immunization.
- Schools assess and store information about students and staff. This makes it easy to distribute individually tailored information about immunizations.
- Schools can help reach people that may not go to a health care provider on a regular basis.
- School success relies on people working well together. It is important to include as many teachers and staff as possible so that decisions get made by everyone.
- It can be hard for school-based clinics to provide immunization follow-up doses because children are in schools only nine months of the year.
- Education programs in schools may work best when students discuss immunizations with their parents.
- Immunization programs in schools can help strengthen relationships between school nurses and students. This may allow school nurses to intervene in other health issues.
- School-based immunization campaigns for at-risk populations can be very successful.
- It is important to include parents in school-based programs in meaningful and practical ways such as sending home newsletters, allowing parents to contribute to the curriculum, creating volunteer opportunities and offering parent education sessions.
- Administrative support is key to maintaining faculty and staff interest and motivation. Time and resources should be provided for the intervention. The administrators must be visibly involved and supportive of immunization interventions.