THE start of a new year always brings with a raft of legislative changes, with most passing without much comment or public interest.
But one change to come into effect in NSW this week has created plenty of discussion – a new law effectively banning unvaccinated children from enrolling in childcare centres across the state.
From Monday, children who are not fully immunised due to their parents’ conscientious objection to vaccines will no longer be able to be enrolled in child care.
Under the previous legislation, registering as a conscientious objector was a valid exemption.
The new rules will only apply to newly enrolled children from January 1 and children on an approved catch-up vaccination schedule or children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will still be able to be enrolled.
The changes also give health officers the power to exclude unvaccinated children from high schools - in addition to primary and childcare centres - when there is a disease outbreak.
The change comes as state health authorities work to keep increasing vaccinations rates across NSW. While rates are already high, there does appear to have been some plateauing of numbers in recent years.
Currently more than 93 per cent of children in NSW are fully vaccinated at one and five years of age, NSW Health data shows. The rate is even higher across the Bathurst region, sitting above 96 per cent.
Only 1.15 per cent of children between zero and seven years old had parents who registered as conscientious objectors so the law change will directly impact just a tiny number of families.
But the move does bring NSW in line with Victoria and Queensland’s ‘No Jab No Play’ rules and complements the federal government’s ‘No Jab, No Pay’ policy which strips families of certain childcare and family tax benefits if a child is unvaccinated.
And the law change is both a symbol of how determined all tiers of government are to keep boosting vaccination numbers and proof that they are now ready to take real action against the remaining non-vaxxers who threaten the herd immunity the majority of the community has worked so hard to achieve.
Childcare bans and the withholding of benefits are blunt tools but appear the only options remaining for governments.