Like all parents of school-age children I have recently received a pamphlet outlining the Government's immunisation programme of schoolchildren planned for this autumn.
The measles and rubella (MR) immunisation is offered as a "school injection" only. That it is to say that GPs are prohibited access to the vaccine. Children are injected at school or not at all.
The Government's chief medical officer, Kenneth Calman, stated on the BBC Radio 4 programme You and Yours that it was "much more efficient to do it in schools ... up to 1,000 children in a couple of days" would be a "remarkably effective way of doing it, rather than through the GP system". What Mr Calman fails to recognise is that children are living, breathing and feeling beings, not mere statistics. The fears and needs of a five-year-old child are quite different to those of a 15-year-old. The immunisation of first school pupils en masse worries me intensely. Young children cannot cope positively with this type of situation. I am appalled that I have no choice as to where and by whom I have my two young children immunised.
As a mother I question how much individual consideration will be given to each child. A bad experience at a young age could destroy a child's confidence for the rest of his life. Primary schoolchildren should be excluded from the mass immunisation programme. The vaccine should be available to GPs, where it is more likely that young children will receive a more caring and individual approach.
As a former teacher I believe that schools should be places of learning, not medical clinics. Teachers should teach, not play nurse to young, frightened children. Medical procedures, however minor, should be performed in appropriate places, under proper conditions.
Finally, and most importantly, all parents should have the right to choose what they believe to be the safest and more caring environment for their young children to be immunised.
EDWINA M OWEN