The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted routine vaccination services and activities globally. To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, Australian governments implemented a suite of measures including border restrictions and physical distancing, ranging in stringency up to general ‘stay at home’ orders and jurisdiction-wide restrictions on school attendance, referred to hereafter as ‘school closures’. Remote learning was generally encouraged for those children able to, but vulnerable children and children of essential workers were able to attend classes in person. There is little information available regarding the impacts of these response measures on school-based vaccination programs in Australia.
- Evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated response measures on school-based vaccination programs and adolescent vaccination uptake in Australia
- Identify measures taken to mitigate these impacts, and evaluate their effectiveness
- Identify barriers and facilitators of uptake of adolescent vaccines during the pandemic
- Make recommendations, including on monitoring and program enhancements
The evaluation found that COVID-19 had a variable impact on delivery of school-based vaccination programs in Australia. By strengthening and adjusting existing strategies, and use of some innovative approaches, school-based vaccination programs successfully mitigated many of the pandemic’s impacts. The experience has enriched the understanding and skills of staff on how to run an effective immunisation program, even during a crisis situation. Finally, the pandemic has played a significant and diverse role in shaping parent decisions about both school-based vaccination and vaccination more broadly.
Parent interviews showed that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted families in different ways, and played a significant and diverse role in shaping parent decisions about both school-based vaccination and vaccination more broadly.
The authors make a range of recommendations, based on their research and feedback from parents, on ways to mitigate the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to incorporate lessons learned to increase readiness for future pandemics.