The director of a Brunswick Heads preschool says she was misled by the NSW health department regarding the application of new vaccination rules and that other local directors have been ‘utterly confused and frustrated’ by the changes.
Frances Dyett from Lilly Pilly Preschool is now inviting the parents of unvaccinated children in Brunswick Heads to enrol their kids at her centre before new rules abolishing the so-called ‘conscientious objection’ option come into effect on January 1.
‘I have turned away many upset, angry parents believing I was doing the right thing and complying with the rules and regulations,’ Ms Dyett said.
‘I was initially given misleading information from the health department but was one of the lucky ones who received a call back to say they had given out wrong information.’
On January 1, new rules will come into effect that prevent unvaccinated children from being enrolled in NSW preschools unless their parents can prove they have a specific allergy to the injections.
Prior to this, parents have been able to enrol their unvaccinated children if they were able to register as a ‘conscientious objector’ to vaccination.
Over the past three months, local preschools have been inundated with requests from parents trying to enrol their children for 2019 and beyond in a bid to get in before the January 1 deadline.
However, all but a handful have been rejected by the preschools.
It has now emerged that a number of the preschools were acting on incorrect information from health department officers who were apparently unaware of how the new laws worked.
The preschools were allegedly told that they could enrol unvaccinated children for 2018, but not beyond this.
Ms Dyett says, ‘I was told repeatedly, going back to October, that I could enrol unvaccinated kids for 2018 if their parents registered as conscientious objectors, but not beyond that.’
‘Now I finally have it in writing that I can enrol unvaccinated children for future years.’
The Northern NSW Local Health District confirmed that this was the case to The Echo.
‘Children enrolled prior to 31 December 2017 are not subject to this new legislation,’ the director of the health district’s Public Health Unit, Paul Corben, said, referring to the new vaccination rules.
‘However, any enrolment must be consistent with the preschool’s own enrolment practices,’ he said.
Mr Corben did not comment on the allegation that health department staff had previously misled local preschools about the application of the new rules.
Ms Dyett said the entire process had been ‘incredibly stressful and confusing’.
‘There should have been clearer guidelines, it really needed to be spelt out,’ she said.
‘If all the Shire’s preschool directors have been utterly confused and frustrated by this change, then obviously it has been too murky and grey. One preschool director even had to have lawyers look into it.
‘The fear of fines as well as a black mark have been hanging over us and we all just want to comply with the law and regulations.’
Ms Dyett invited parents from Brunswick Heads wanting to enrol their unvaccinated kids at Lilly Pilly to email her at [email protected]
She said parents had to enrol before the end of December, have all enrolment forms filled out with a copy of their child’s birth certificate and a completed conscientious objection form. Proof of address was also needed.