Embrace the vital role of immunisation

Nursing Times letter Feb 1-7, 2001

There is something wrong when a professional officer of the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association says: ‘It is not a health visitor’s job to pin children down and give them the vaccination.’ (‘Health visitors told to promote MMR vaccine’, January 11, p8)

Next to this piece is an item on the meningitis C schools’ campaign (‘Huge workload led to neglect of basic care’, January 11, p8), in which another professional officer, while giving credit to the government for the campaign, suggests that because core duties such as sex education have been neglected, there have been anecdotal reports of an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies?

Similar statements have come from the RCN school nurses’ forum.

Two important issues need to be addressed: first, no nurse would ever ‘pin a child’ — or adult— down to administer any vaccination; second, the underlying failure to recognise the potential seriousness of the diseases for which we vaccinate. Meningitis and measles both have the potential to cause permanent disability and death. It is shocking that community nurses fail to recognise this.

If community nurses are public health practitioners, and the CPHVA has been embracing this role, they need to be aware of the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting MMR as a safe and effective vaccine and counsel concerned patients appropriately.

They should also be prepared to fulfil the basic nursing task of administering the immunisation. In Oxfordshire, MMR take-up rate are among the highest in the country Health visitors in the county are required to immunise and to attend regular updating sessions.The school nurses organised the meningitis C campaign with the minimum amount of disruption.

We have the ability to prevent major outbreaks of disease. Let no one forget the seriousness of potential epidemics of these vaccine-preventable diseases.


District immunisation coordinator
DepartinentofPublic Health, Oxford

Research health visitor
Institute of Child Health