The Victorian Government has tightened the “No Jab, No Play” laws by banning early childhood services from accepting letters from doctors excusing children from immunisations.
Since 1 January 2016, early childhood services have been required to obtain evidence of a child’s immunisation history, as part of the Victorian government’s no jab, no play policy.
Specifically, the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) requires parents to provide immunisation status certificates indicating whether the child is fully immunised for their age, on a catch-up schedule or has a valid medical exemption from immunisation.
These requirements have been met with opposition from some sectors of the community and last year concerns were raised about medical practitioners issuing false statements about a child’s inability to be immunised, in order to avoid the no jab, no play requirements.
From 28 February 2018, pursuant to amendments made to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, only immunisation history statements from the Commonwealth Australian Immunisation Register will be acceptable. A letter from a doctor will no longer suffice. In rare situations, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is able to declare alternative documents as allowable evidence.
Primary schools will also be required to obtain immunisation history statements from the Commonwealth Australian Immunisation Register to discharge their obligation to take reasonable steps to obtain immunisation status certificates in relation to children attending the school.
The legislation has also been amended to require periodic checks to verify that children are receiving their scheduled vaccines on time during their care at an early childhood service, by requiring parents to provide up to date immunisation status certificates. This particular change will come into force no later than 1 November 2018.
These changes are likely to see pushback from some parents. Childcare centres must consider strategies for dealing with parents who are unwilling to comply with the new requirements, including the training of staff to manage potential conflict.
Gadens can assist early childhood services and primary schools to update policies and enrolment documentation to deal with these matters.
Steven Troeth, Partner
Emma Moran, Associate