While changes to the childcare vaccination legislation through amendments to the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) will not make immunisation mandatory, it gives the person in charge of an approved education and care service (ECEC services) the power to exercise discretion regarding enrolment and attendance of children who are not up to date with their immunisations. These changes will take effect on 1 January 2016.
Changes from 1 January 2015
ECEC services can request parents provide the following:
- An immunisation history statement when first enrolling a child;
- An updated immunisation history statement when a child passes the 2, 4, 6, 12, 18 months and 4 years vaccination milestones.
The immunisation history statement will show if a child is up-to-date with their scheduled vaccinations and could for example be requested in an enrolment form, or similar documentation used for enrolling a new child.
Services covered by the legislative changes
The changes will only apply to education and care services approved under the Education and Care Services National Law (Queensland) and the Education and Care Services Act 2013. The most common ECEC services include the following:
- Family day care
- Long day care
- Limited hours
- Outside school hours/holiday care
Unregulated services such as nannies, babysitters, au pairs, or playgroups are not covered.
What if a child is not up-to-date?
If a child is not up-to-date, the ECEC service can choose to:
- Refuse enrolment;
- Cancel enrolment and/or refuse attendance; or
- Conditionally accept enrolment and/or attendance;
- Accept the enrolment and/or attendance
The changes offer discretionary power to the ECEC service and does not prevent the service from allowing unvaccinated children to enrol and/or attend their service or elect to waive the requirement to provide an immunisation history statement all together.
Services are encouraged to take into consideration a child’s circumstances when utilising their discretionary power and consider whether refusing enrolment or attendance would be in the best interest of the child.
What if child’s immunisation status is not updated at a key milestone?
The ECEC service can:
- Request the parent provide an immunisation history statement;
- Where the parent has not provided an update with 4 weeks of the request, the service may:
- Refuse to enrol or allow the child to attend the service; or
- Impose conditions on the child’s attendance, for example, agreement of a reasonable timeframe to immunisation history statement or a catch up schedule approved by a recognised immunisation provider.
Are any children exempt?
Children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (e.g. medical contraindication) or who are on a recognised vaccination catch-up schedule are considered up-to-date. The ECEC service cannot refuse to let these children attend, based on their immunisation status.
Children from families who conscientiously object to immunisation will have the immunisation status “not- up-to-date”. Enrolment or attendance of these children will be at the discretion of each ECEC service.
Missing or incomplete records
The parents should discuss their options with their immunisation provider. The immunisation provider can review the child’s immunisation history, begin a catch-up vaccination schedule if needed, or provide the parent with an immunisation history statement.
What does up-to-date mean?
- The child is age-appropriately immunised; or
- The child is following an approved immunisation catch-up schedule; or
- The child has not been vaccinated due to a medical contraindication.
What is an immunisation history statement?
Demonstrates whether a child is up-to-date or not. An immunisation history statement as recorded on the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register kept under the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cwlth), section 46B, or a statement about a child’s immunisation history given by a recognised immunisation provider (such as an immunisation nurse or GP).
Who is a recognised immunisation provider?
Is defined by reference to section 46A of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cth) – under section 46A of the Health Insurance Act 1973, a recognised immunisation provider is a person who is recognised by the Chief Executive Medicare as a provider of immunisation to children.