Rounding up students to take part in immunisation programs is right up there with listening to enthusiastic renditions of the latest One Direction song on a bus on the way home from camp or trying to wrap up a parent-teacher interview with a parent who doesn’t pick up on the “we’re done” vibe. Ultimately, there are no winners in this situation: the kids hate it, the teachers hate it and the injection-givers have an air of wishing they were somewhere far, far away.
“Miss, do we have injections today?”
“Yes, Sarah, I told you that yesterday.”
“What? What? I didn’t think they were until next week.”
“I can’t have mine because I’m having an allergic reaction to a Band Aid.”
“I can’t have mine either. I think I’ve got a big dance competition tomorrow so I can’t risk it.”
“Miss! Miss! Jessica is crying. She is freaking out about getting her injection.”
“Oh my God! She, like, totally freaked out getting injections in primary school and she fully hyperventilated. Our principal had to hold her down while she had it done.”
“I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, Tyler ...”
“Nah, I’m being serious. He really did hold her down.”
“Yeah, I saw it.”
Leading my reluctant injection warriors up to the isolated area of the school set aside for such events, there are tears, dramatic stories of near death injection events and staged attempts to escape the inevitable, such as clinging to poles and ducking behind trees and bushes.
“Miss, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“No, like, I really feel sick.”
“Get a drink.”
“Miss, Jessica’s just been sick.”
“In the pot plant that the office put outside to get rained on.”
“Jessica? Jessica? Are you okay?”
“We told you she freaked out with needles.”
“And she told you she was going to be sick.”
“Could I have a volunteer to take Jessica to sick bay please?”
Every hand in the class shoots up, super-keen to escape a dreaded fate.
“Okay, Fiona, you can take her. The rest of you, let’s go.”
“If you vomit, do you get out of having the needle?”
“That’s not how it works, Damian.”
“But it worked for Jessica.”
We arrive, very subdued, to join the line.
“Gabrielle has passed out! I can see her! She’s lying under the STI poster.”
The council nurse bustles over with a checklist of injection recipients. There are a few fist pumps and sighs of relief as some students are told they have already had their injections whilst the rest of the group musters courage.
“Do you get a lolly for getting your needle?”
“No, not this year.”
“Because our budgets have been cut.”
This is a devastating blow but with courage akin to that of first-time bungee jumpers they all make it through with a bit of coaxing … except for poor Jessica. We spot the gardener hosing off the pot plant as we make our way back to class.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.