Childcare services, kindergartens and schools in Western Australia will be required to collect and report on the immunisation of all students starting next year.
The new regulations under the Public Health Act 2016 will will form phase one of the No Jab No Play policy and will come into effect on January 1, 2019.
The information collected will be used to provide support and referral pathways to families to ensure their children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.
It will also enable the Department of Health to identify under-vaccinated children and, if necessary, exclude them during a period when there is a disease outbreak.
Under the new regulations the person in charge of a childcare service, kindergarten or school can be fined $1,000 if they permit a child to attend the facility in breach of a direction from the chief health officer.
To implement phase two of No Jab No Play, the state government will introduce a bill to state parliament to amend the Public Health Act 2016 (WA) and the School Education Act 1999 (WA).
This will allow the chief health officer to exclude children who are not fully vaccinated from enrolling in childcare services and kindergarten (non-compulsory early education and care).
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have already introduced similar laws, and South Australia is planning to proceed in the near future.
It is anticipated phase two of No Jab No Play will be effective as of July 2019 for children entering childcare services, and in 2020 for children commencing kindergarten.
In 2017, the state’s immunisation coverage was lower than the national average for one, two and five-year-olds.
Two-year-olds in WA recorded the lowest immunisation coverage of 89.1 per cent.
Ninety-five per cent of children must be fully immunised to effectively prevent outbreaks of highly infectious diseases such as measles.
Known as herd immunity, the 95 per cent immunisation rate is important to protect others in our community including those who are too young to be vaccinated, pregnant women, children with immune disorders and some cancer patients, for whom these diseases can be extremely serious.
Health Minister Roger Cook said Australia was lucky to have an immunisation program protecting children from 16 different vaccine preventable diseases.
“Yet we are still seeing children who are not fully immunised, putting other children and the broader community at risk,” he said.
“These changes will allow the Department of Health to readily access immunisation-related data and to support families to ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations.
“This is a common sense change to public health regulation, and will result in reducing preventable disease in Western Australia.”
Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said the initiative was a positive step in improving the health and well-being of young children.
“It is important that we work together across health, education and childcare centres to ensure immunisation rates are increased to a level which ensures children are safe from vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.
“Most families using childcare are already familiar with the requirement to have their children’s vaccinations up to date, mainly due to the Federal Government’s ‘No Jab No Pay’ program.
“The Department of Communities will work with childcare providers to ensure they are aware of the changes which will commence on January 1.”
Parents can check their child’s immunisation history on the Medicare Australia website. For more information, visit healthywa.wa.gov.au.