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New vaccine laws: here's how they could affect you.

By MAMAMIA TEAM

UPDATE:

The controversial ‘no jab, no play’ legislation has been passed through the NSW cabinet.

Parents in NSW have been told that they must vaccinate their children – or register for an exemption – if they want to enroll in childcare. After much deliberation, the changes to the Public Health Act were passed through cabinet yesterday evening.

To get an exemption, parents will have to fill out forms with their doctor, explaining their personal, philosophical or religious reasons for abstaining. While this legislation will not force anti-vaxers to immunise their children, the legislation will serve as a reminder to parents who have merely forgotten to make sure that their child is fully vaccinated for their age group, or on a recogised catch-up schedule.

Brian Owler, the president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, released a statement this afternoon in which he said, “This is a sensible move that is in line with the experts’ recommendations on the matter.”

He argued that, “Making it mandatory for parents and guardians to supply childcare facilities and schools with documentation about their children’s immunisation status will increase vaccination rates.”

Why was this legislation put forward in the first place?

This is what Mamamia reported when the legislation was first introduced.

Across Australia, more than 77,000 children are not fully immunised.

Let’s pause for a moment and let that sink in – that’s a Collingwood versus Carlton sized football stadium crowd of kids.

And this is the exact reason that NSW Labor leader John Robertson will today introduce legislation to parliament to ban unvaccinated children from preschools and child care centres.

According to Mr Robertson, some parts of NSW have lower vaccination rates than Rwanda.

The ‘no jab, no play’ legislation is being introduced to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against dangerous ailments such as whooping cough and measles.

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson will be introducing the ‘no ab, no play’ legislation to parliament.

According to Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald, the current rates of immunisation are so worryingly low in NSW, that an epidemic outbreak of these diseases is almost inevitable.

A perfect example of this risk was seen in August last year, when there were more than 40 reported cases of measles in Sydney’s south west in one week.

McDonald continued, “This is about preventing deaths in young children … unless we change we will have a whole cohort of children who are not fully immunised.”

Mr Robertson said that not all parents who haven’t vaccinated their children are ‘anti-vaccinators’ – some are merely ‘non-vaccinators’.

He told reporters, “Many parents simply forget to immunise their children… What this proposal will do is allow childcare centres to remind those parents, and at the same time give them the opportunity to refuse access to any child that’s not immunised if they choose to do so.”

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Premier Barry O’Farrell has said that his government would look at the Labor legislation – and confirmed that the Liberal party is dedicated to raising vaccination rates across the state. He said, “… We are a government that supports vaccinations and we’re committed to trying to ensure that we lift the rate of children vaccinated across the state.

It’s appalling that a law like this is necessary at all.

But according to a survey by National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance at the University of Sydney, 50 per cent of parents are concerned about the safety of childhood vaccines.

The reason parents are scared about vaccinations? It’s thanks, in large part, to anti-vaccination campaigners who mislead innocent parents and create a climate of anxiety.

And let’s be clear that anti-vaccination campaigners are acting on nothing more than bad science, misinformation and scare campaigns. This is not about science. It’s about fear.

Greg Beattie from the ‘Australian Vaccination Network’.

Greg Beattie from the Australian Vaccination Network – or rather, the Anti-Vaccination Network – argues that this new legislation could ‘trick’ parents into vaccinating.

He said, “I imagine it probably will because what happens with all of these things is that parents become confused, and the way that this law will be marketed to the community is, ‘oh we now have compulsory vaccination’.”

He continued, “So parents will start to think they have to do these things to get their children into childcare or to get them into preschool.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not endorsed the proposed legislation but says she agrees in principle. She said, “I am concerned about vaccination rates, I am a big supporter of vaccination … I can understand in communities why people are worried about this and want to see rates moving up.”

The federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott further said that if elected his government would support childcare centres in their right to ban children who are unvaccinated. Further, he said that an Abbott-led government would review government payments to parents who refused to vaccinate their children.

Mamamia’s publisher and pro-vaccination campaigner Mia Freedman has previously written:

Mia Freedman

Let’s be very clear. Those who refuse to immunise their children are not just risking their own children’s health but the lives of others in the community. Vaccinations are not perfect – occasionally, those who have been immunised can still contract the disease – but they are the best we’ve got to protect us against incurable diseases.

We all rely on the immunity of others to protect us, particularly those who are too young to be immunised and anyone with an illness that suppresses their immune system (such as cancer). They are our most vulnerable and high levels of immunisation in the community (above 95%) are crucial for their welfare.

Associate Professor Paul Middleton wrote for Mamamia recently:

Our best defence against viruses is vaccination. Vaccination is still a lifesaver…

Vaccination took a beating in 1990s, with the anti-MMR vaccine hysteria leading many misguided parents to decide not to vaccinate their children. Despite the fact that the “study” that sparked the hysteria was shown to be seriously misleading, and its author discredited and struck off the UK medical register, we continue to see a vocal minority of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

It’s a scary fact, but vaccination rates have fallen far below the 93% safe minimum in some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest communities in Australia.

In wealthy communities, not vaccinating children is most likely a conscious decision, but in disadvantaged and remote communities, many parents lack the opportunity and resources to fully vaccinate their children. NSW Health has begun a campaign, reminding parents to “Save the Date to Vaccinate”, to try to reverse this worrying trend.

Parents who choose not to vaccinate are acting on bad science, misinformation and scare campaigns,and as an emergency physician who sees these kids later on when they are very sick, that saddens me.

All parents want the best for their children, but I urge those who have not vaccinated their children to talk to their GP, get the facts and reconsider their beliefs, to protect their children againstpreventable viruses that could threaten their lives.

While discussing the proposed legislation, Mr Robertson also made the point that his party was not trying to disrespect the wishes of parents but was taking a necessary step to protect children. He said, “This shouldn’t be about the alternative wishes of parents who choose to ignore the advice of doctor, it has to be about the health of our children and young people.”

That’s the way this issue should be discussed. It’s not about what parents want – it’s about what children need. And vaccinations are the best way of keeping our children safe.

You can sign the Mamamia Vaccination pledge below.

Mamamia's Vaccination Pledge

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