Parents angry at vaccine pressure
By EMILY WATT
[Media. 01 August 2004]
Angry parents say their children are being terrified and bribed into having
the meningococcal vaccine with what one father described as "sneaky and
Some schools are giving children chocolate and morning tea as a reward for
returning consent forms. One mother said her eight-year-old burst into tears
saying "I don't want my limbs to fall off" when told he could not have the
The boy told his mother two teachers had come to his Clayton Park School
classroom in Manurewa, south Auckland and warned him of the threats of the
disease. "They're using scare tactics on the children," the parent told the
Clayton Park School principal Bernard Barradell denied teachers told
children they would lose their limbs and said children were probably scaring
each other. "I'd be flabbergasted if one of my staff said that," he said.
But the parent said her child had been very clear the warning came from the
teachers. She said such tactics frightened children and manipulated parents.
"He's making me feel terrible that I'm not letting him have this 'life
Immunisation Awareness Society researcher Sue Claridge said the organisation
had received a number of complaints from parents concerned their children
were being manipulated by schools into having the vaccine.
One parent said her five-year-old was shown photos of a baby with amputated
arms on her first day of school and came home afraid she was going to die.
Claridge pointed out there were also graphic images on the consent forms of
children scarred with the disease and those would frighten children.
Carol Mallard, a school principal who helped develop the schools' training
programme and information pack, said the resources were designed to inform
children about the disease and it was up to schools to use them
"We were mindful of the fact that the Meningococcal B can have devastating
effects but we didn't want to frighten the children," she said.
Claridge said showing graphic images to young children was unprofessional
and unethical as it did not help early diagnosis and children did not need
to be persuaded as they were not required to consent.
Other parents reported they were being pressured into deciding whether to
have their child vaccinated.
One father complained to the Sunday Star-Times his daughter's school was
offering children chocolate to return their vaccine consent forms the next
When he did not return the form the next day, he said the school telephoned
him and asked him to bring it in.
The school also promised a free morning tea to the first class to return all
their forms and his daughter felt she was letting the class down when he was
unwilling to sign the form immediately.
But the principal of Waiuku's View Bay School Trevor Guthrie said the school
had put pressure on to get the consent forms returned but they had not
encouraged children or parents to consent to the vaccine.
He said he had "no issues" with parents taking more time to consider the
vaccination but the school was trying to target those who might not
otherwise bother to return the form.
Kidz First public health nurse Elizabeth Farrell praised schools in getting
the consent forms returned quickly. There was some pressure to begin
vaccinations so the rest of the country's vaccines would not be delayed, she