Victoria Flags Tougher ‘No Jab No Play’ Childcare Vaccine Laws
Families in Victoria will need to provide more proof their child has been vaccinated in order to attend kindergartens and childcare centres under tougher “No Jab No Play” laws.
The proposed laws, set to be introduced into state parliament this week, will make it more difficult for children to remain unimmunised in a bid to crack down further on the anti-vaccination movement.
Families Minister Jenny Mikakos said the government had to take further action to stop a small number of medical professionals from promoting confusion and misinformation about vaccines among worried parents.
“This is putting children and the community at risk,” she said.
“It is absolutely important that we stamp out this practice.”
Currently, childcare services and kindergartens must obtain evidence a child is fully immunised for their age, on a catch-up vaccination program, or unable to be fully immunised for medical reasons, before they can be enrolled.
But under the proposed changes, parents will now need a letter from the Australian Immunisation Register as proof of a child’s medical exemption – a letter from a GP or other immunisation provider will no longer be accepted.
Victoria does not allow conscientious objectors, or children who are exempt from vaccinations due to their parents’ ideological beliefs, but does allow exemptions over legitimate health reasons.
The changes, however, are meant to close loopholes that allowed anti-vax families to go doctor shopping for a sympathetic GP who would write them an exemption letter.
“We don’t want to be encouraging dodgy doctors to be promoting a loophole in any way,” Ms Mikakos said.
“The consequences could be fatal.”
Earlier this year, Melbourne GP John Piesse was suspended from practising after it emerged he was helping anti-vax families attempt to skirt around the existing laws.
Dr Piesse insisted he was doing nothing illegal as he worked out of the Natural Healing Centre in Mitcham, in the city’s east.
“I have tried to help,” he told Fairfax Media in August. “This is a matter of principle. You have got a public health policy which is causing harm.”
Parents and childcare centres could also face audits of a child’s immunisation history as part of the proposed changes in the state.
Victoria’s immunisation rates among five-year-olds have gone up by 2 percentage points, to 95 per cent, since the vaccine laws were first passed in 2016.