Amendments to laws regarding the enrolment of children in childcare centres passed through NSW Parliament last week, with the aim of increasing rates of childhood vaccination across the state.
The legislation denies children enrolment in childcare facilities if parents or guardians cannot show proof of vaccination or provide an ‘approved exemption’.
It’s a topic with much significance to this region: the northern rivers has among the highest unvaccinated population in the state.
Health minister Jillian Skinner said the new laws, which come into effect on January 1, 2014, were introduced by the government to improve protection from preventable diseases for all children enrolled in the state’s childcare centres.
‘As a community, we can never be complacent about our health and particularly the health of those who are most vulnerable,’ Mrs Skinner said in a media release.
‘We have been resolute about tightening the rules around child immunisation and these changes mean parents who are reluctant to vaccinate will need to meet with a GP to discuss their decision and be educated on the associated health risks.’
Mrs Skinner said in forming the policy, the government listened to the concerns of childcare centre operators.
Denies childcare enrolment
‘These reforms also speak to those parents who simply forgot to immunise their child… I have no doubt these changes will go some way to protecting children across the state from the devastating effects of vaccine preventable disease.’
The bill has amended the Public Health Act 2010 to:
• require parents or guardians to provide evidence their child is fully vaccinated for age, or is on a recognised catch-up schedule, or has an exemption approved by a GP. Those seeking exemptions will be required to fill in forms used by the Commonwealth, which must be completed by a GP (or other approved provider) after counselling. Valid exemptions may include a medical contraindication to vaccination or religious grounds.
• require directors of childcare facilities to obtain vaccination evidence or exemption prior to enrolment. NSW Health will work with the Department of Education and Communities to ensure childcare facilities are aware of the new requirements. Failure to comply will be an offence subject to a fine.
A government mobile phone app that includes an immunisation reminder tool is available at www.immunisation.health.nsw.gov.au.