Immunisation in Children’s Services
How many children are fully immunised at your education and care service? All of them? Most of them? Do you think the recent push by several States to ensure all children are fully immunised when they enter a Children’s Service will increase vaccination rates?
In NSW from 1 January 2014, children will not be able to enrol unless the Service is given:
- an up to date immunisation certificate for the child
- a certificate showing the child is following an approved immunisation “catch-up” schedule
- a certificate saying the parent’s have a “conscientious objection” to immunisation
- a certificate saying that the child has not been immunised because of medical contra-indications (potential adverse medical outcomes).
Currently services only have to ask for evidence of a child’s immunisation status on enrolment and there is no restriction on enrolment for unvaccinated children.
The idea behind the new rules is to encourage those parents who simply forget, or who have very busy lives (and let’s face it most people do) to vaccinate their children. For this group of parents the new rules are likely to have the desired effect.
However, the study, ‘Healthy Communities: Immunisation rates for children in 2011-12‘ found there are low vaccination rates in some wealthy city areas where parents have high education levels. Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton makes the point that these are parents who have actively researched the information available and yet they are not vaccinating their children.
In many cases this is because there is a wealth of misinformation about vaccinations. It doesn’t matter how often or in how much detail claims about the dangers of vaccines are refuted; many people seem to believe the saying that “if there’s smoke there must be fire.”
This raises the question of what parents need to do to obtain a certificate of conscientious objection. Here’s what the legislation says. They must sign a certificate saying they have a conscientious belief about not vaccinating their child for a particular disease and this must also be signed by a medical practitioner who confirms they have explained the benefits and risks of the vaccine and have informed the parent of the potential danger of not vaccinating the child.
We’ll have to wait and see whether all those (mis)informed parents decide to visit their doctor to get an exemption certificate or to get the vaccination. Can doctors convince sceptical parents of the benefits of vaccines?
Note Queensland proposes to give children’s services the option of refusing to enrol children who aren’t fully immunised (unless they can’t be vaccinated for valid medical reasons). It will be interesting to compare the two approaches – the carrot (immunise your child or all the childcare places may go to vaccinated children) and the stick (immunise your child or miss out altogether on childcare).