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6 February 2014

“Booster Time” for Year 8s

Western Australian Year 8 students are being offered booster doses of important childhood vaccines this year to ensure they are protected against infectious diseases into adulthood.

The Statewide program—run through high schools—is available free to every child whose parents have signed the appropriate consent form, which can be found in the information pack that will be sent home from schools in February.

Department of Health Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Armstrong urged parents to keep an eye out for the information pack so their child did not miss out.

"One of the most common reasons that people do not have their children immunised is not because they object to it, it is simply through forgetting or missing the consent form in their child's bag—so I urge every parent to be on the look-out for the information pack," he said.

"Early childhood vaccinations protect against 16 vaccine-preventable diseases; however, our level of immunity to some of these diseases wanes over time.

"Booster doses of vaccines in Year 8 can help prevent adolescents from catching infectious diseases later in life, where the effects are often more severe."

The Year 8 vaccination program offers booster doses of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and chickenpox vaccines, as well as an additional vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV).

Dr Armstrong said HPV vaccination was an important addition to the vaccination schedule, as it could prevent many cancers such as throat, mouth and cervical cancer

"Up to 80 per cent of the population will be infected with HPV at some time in their lives, so it is important that both girls and boys are vaccinated and protected—preferably before they become sexually active," he said.

"It is also important to maintain high levels of immunity to diseases such as chickenpox because although complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) are uncommon—if they occur they can be more severe in adults.

"Also, if pregnant women develop chickenpox, they and their babies, are at increased risk."

A video with more information about the school-based immunisations can be found in the Healthy Living Section on the Healthy WA website at www.healthywa.wa.gov.au

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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