The Federal Government is planning to make school immunisation requirements tougher as latest data shows five-year-olds have the lowest immunisation rates of any children.
The Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has asked State Governments introduce standardised procedures that will make it mandatory for parents to produce the official Australian Childhood Immunisation Register record to prove their children have been fully immunised when they enrol them at school.
“We all want to protect our children against preventable disease and there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that says increasing immunisation rates is the best way to protect individual children and the community as a whole,” said Ms Plibersek.
“I am proposing we introduce a rigorous nationally consistent policy for schools to assess and document immunisation for all new enrolments as a way of identifying children who have slipped through the immunisation net or have not yet met the immunisation milestones.
Ms Plibersek said Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have school entry legislation for immunisation but, other than Western Australia, the laws are not usually enforced.
“Ensuring accurate records are available at schools will assist both in promoting immunisation of children and improving the control of spread of vaccine preventable diseases by excluding children from school during an outbreak if they are not immunised.”
A nationally consistent policy could require parents present schools with their childrens’ Child Immunisation History statements, which are available from Medicare and are linked to the Personally Controlled eHealth Record system.
Ms Plibersek said she was encouraged by a South Australian Government initiative which has seen immunisation rates among five year olds increase from 88.8% to 91.1% since the middle of last year.
“I have asked my department to examine an initiative by the South Australian government, which has successfully produced and distributed a ‘four year old booster pack’ which is sent to young families and includes an illustrated story book, and a brochure.”
Ms Plibersek said Medicare Locals were responsible for coordinating community health programs and could assist schools implement nationally consistent policy for assessing and documenting immunisation for all new enrolments.
In his Motherpedia column, AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton says declining vaccination rates are a threat to public health and it is vital parents have easy access to the most authoritative information and evidence in support of immunisation.