No jab, no play campaign launched to ban unvaccinated kids from childcare centres and preschools
CHILDCARE centres should have the right to ban unvaccinated kids from childcare centres and preschools under a proposed "no jab, no play" policy.
The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph are today launching a campaign to stop the rise in the number of children succumbing to preventable diseases because parents are failing to have them fully immunised.
Although only 1.5 per cent of parents are "vaccine refusers" or conscientious objectors, many parents are forgetful, leaving areas of NSW with vaccination rates below 85 per cent - despite the inarguable scientific proof that the vaccination program has saved thousands of lives and eradicated diseases that crippled children just a generation ago, including polio.
Despite effective vaccines, Australia has been unable to eradicate diseases such as whooping cough because some parents do not immunise, leaving small babies and children with cancer and other immune-compromising conditions vulnerable.
Nine local areas were recently identified by the National Health Performance Authority as being "at risk" of outbreaks of preventable and potentially deadly diseases such as measles and chicken pox, with vaccination rates as low as, or below, 85 per cent. A high rate of immunisation is defined as 95 per cent.
The eastern suburbs, inner Sydney, Manly and the north shore now record the lowest rates of immunisation in the city with an estimated 77,000 children not fully immunised.
The Australian Medical Association believes tougher measures - potentially including bans for non-immunised children - should be introduced to make life harder for "free-riding" parents who refuse or forget to vaccinate.
"We need to lift the barriers, we need people to make an active decision to immunise because we have a responsibility to our children to protect them, and a responsibility to the community to contribute to herd immunity," Dr Steve Hambleton said.
A child will die of measles - a preventable disease - in the near future if another outbreak occurs and the immunisation rate remains below 95 per cent, Dr Hambleton warned.
He wants childcare centres to be more vigilant with checking immunisation certificates. "Sadly we will see a death," he said. "The free-riders will actually cause a disease to occur in vaccinated children whose parents did the responsible thing."
Under current laws, daycares and schools cannot refuse non-immunised children entry. These children can be temporarily excluded only if there is an outbreak of a communicable disease, NSW Health's director of health protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said.
The campaign has two specific aims: first, to demand the NSW government amend the Public Health Act 2010 to allow childcare centres to ban unvaccinated children if they so wish.
Second, for the federal government to close a loophole enabling parents to claim they are "conscientious objectors" to avoid the rule that only vaccinated children are eligible for the 50 per cent childcare rebate.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the government had no plans to toughen laws. "Additional measures could be considered in future to maximise rates of vaccination in children, however the NSW government has no current plans to legislate compulsory immunisation," she said.
The federal government instituted financial penalties in July with the new Family Tax Benefit A supplement of $726 reliant on a child being fully immunised. But the carrot-and-stick approach does not affect wealthy parents in the identified areas who do not qualify for the benefit.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has replaced the term "conscientious objectors" in government communications with "vaccine refusers". There is also a move to make the same change in legislation.
Ms Plibersek rubbished fear campaigns about the risks of immunisation.
"As a mother of three, I support immunisation and my children are fully immunised," she said.
"No vaccine or medicine can be guaranteed to be without side-effects, but these are infrequent and in the main are very mild.
"The alleged link between autism and immunisation has been disproved. It is absolutely 100 per cent not true. Unfounded allegations regarding adverse events from vaccines lead to downturns in immunisation rates and outbreak of disease."