SUNS 90 IMMUNISATION A ‘MUST FIX’ ISSUE
Published in the Suns newspapers in May, 2015
Vaccination is a vexed issue.
Keeping students healthy and being aware of their vaccination status is a responsibility assumed by all schools. Parents enrolling children are asked to complete quite detailed enrolment procedures. This includes providing information and verification about children’s immunisation histories.
School leaders are very aware of their duty of care responsibilities. Should there be an outbreak of measles, chicken pox or other communicable disease, they immediately let parents know. That is all the more imperative, because it is not uncommon to have children in the school who have not been immunised.
In order to facilitate this communication, support staff need to have information to hand about children who haven’t been immunised. Careful management is important in order to avoid children who have not had their jabs being known to their peers and classmates. If other children become aware of the situation, that can become a point for teasing. Avoiding embarrassment for these children, who have had no say in whether they should or shouldn’t be immunised, is important.
Without doubt, the lives of children who have not been immunised can be affected if they catch a disease. For this reason together with easing schools administrative problems, most principals and school councils will welcome the Australian Government’s ‘no jabs no money’ initiative.
The Australian Government’s ‘no jab, no money’ policy will cause people to think again about their attitude. It will take extraordinary conviction for families with entitlements to risk losing $15,000 in child care and welfare benefits.
This change in government attitude is important to counter what has been a growing trend. Several years ago, 15,000 Australian children had not been immunised against communicable diseases. That number has now blown out to 39,000. This in part may be due to parents simply overlooking the obligation but that is not the case for all. The government’s proposition to allow exemption on medical grounds alone may cause some angst, but is wise policy. Exclusion on the basis of religious affiliation, personal belief and philosophical preference as a base for exclusion, was far too wide.
Schools at present
In Northern Territory schools there is no specific requirement for children to be immunised before they are enrolled. If they become aware that children have not been immunised, school leaders and administrative staff may encourage rectification, but that is where their intervention capacities stop.
The Department of Education’s policy on this matter is quite clear. Placed on the web in November 2011 it states as follows: . “It is recommended that parents/staff report these conditions to the school to ensure proper care of students/staff and to detect situations where there is potential for transmission. Confidentiality or privacy of medical information about an infected person should be observed at all times and in all situations.”
The issues surrounding immunisation have had a growing impact upon schools. Anxiety is felt for non-immunised children by the Department and school staff. It may be suggested to parents that they re-consider injections for their children but parental prerogative prevails.
The ‘no jab, no money’ policy will lessen school management and notification requirements.