Bid to Strengthen Vaccination Requirements to Enter School

Bid to Strengthen Vaccination Requirements to Enter School

14 May 2013

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has moved to strengthen immunisation requirements when children enrol in school.

Ms Plibersek has written to all state and territory health ministers saying she will be including an item on increasing vaccination rates among school children at the next meeting of the ministers at the Standing Committee on Health.

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.

Evidence suggested that stronger school entry vaccination requirements could improve immunisation rates especially among children from lower socioeconomic and non-English speaking backgrounds.

A recent National Health Performance Authority report confirmed that Australia had high rates of child immunisation overall but highlighted the need to continue increasing immunisation rates, particularly in regions where coverage was below the national average.