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Childcare no-vaccination ban policy on table

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A Bill that would exclude unvaccinated children from enrolling in and attending early childhood care centres in South Australia is now under public consultation.

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In May this year the State Government passed the first phase of the No Jab, No Play policy.

It requires parents and guardians to provide their children’s immunisation records for them to attend childhood services and centres.

These early childhood care services include non-compulsory programs such as childcare, kindergarten and early learning centres.

The policy would allow the Chief Public Health Officer to exclude certain children from centres during a vaccine preventable disease outbreak if the child does not meet the certain vaccination requirements.

They must be up-to-date with vaccines, on a regulated catch-up program, or exempt from being vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Now the Marshall Government is asking for public feedback regarding the second phase of the bill, titled Phase 2 Bill, which proposes children must be appropriately immunised to attend and be enrolled in early childhood care services.

The policy aims to increase protections for young children against highly contagious and dangerous diseases — such as measles, whooping cough and diphtheria — by reinforcing to children and the “wider community” the importance of vaccinated children, said SA Health in the Consultation Discussion Paper that accompanied the online survey.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said if Phase 2 develops as legislation the “tougher measure” will “save” and “protect lives”.

“Over the past few years, other states have passed state-based legislation related to immunisation and childcare enrolment,” he said.

“Although immunisation coverage in South Australia is good, in most areas it falls short of the 95 per cent target, with coverage between 86 and 95 per cent, and is even lower in some pockets.

“Given concerns raised by clinicians about potential detrimental impacts on children, the Government will shortly release a discussion paper which will draw on input received and assessments of the impact of interstate legislation.”

The survey, which can be accessed by online consultation hub yourSAy, was distributed to “key stakeholder groups” such as families, early childhood services and immunisation providers.

They have until Friday 28 June to complete the survey or supply their feedback.

The existing federal No Jab, No Pay policy stipulates children must be fully vaccinated for parents to be eligible to receive family assistance payments.

These vaccinations are provided for free through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

SA Health states although rates of children not being immunised has lessened, one in 20 children in South Australia is not vaccinated.

It cites parental objections, such as vaccine hesitancy and vaccine refusers, as a predominant reason for this.

SA Health’s Director of Communicable Disease Control Branch Dr Louise Flood told InDaily higher rates of immunisation in children is central to the success of certain diseases being eradicated.

“Childhood vaccinations are particularly vital, as children are more susceptible to severe illness and early immunisation can prevent deaths in childhood as well as disease and disability later in life,” said Flood.

“Vaccination ensures diseases are not reintroduced in the community or that serious outbreaks of those diseases do not occur.”

“For many vaccine preventable diseases, immunisation not only protects individuals, but also others in the community by increasing the level of overall immunity and minimising the spread of disease.”

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