opinion

Is it okay that I want to keep my kids away from unvaccinated children?

There are more unvaccinated kids in day care than ever before. And I don’t like it…

My daughter started a new preschool this year and the drop-off area is wall-papered with reminders that we must keep their immunisation records up to date. It made me feel safe and reassured that she would be protected from harmful diseases because all children would be vaccinated.

But this just isn’t the case and it’s making me anxious.

The number of unvaccinated children attending childcare in NSW has tripled this year, with parents lodging ‘conscientious objection’ forms to bypass new ‘no jab no play’ laws that came into effect on January 1. So how worried should we be about the fact our children will be mixing with unvaccinated children at childcare?

Under the ”no jab, no play” law, parents need to either provide a full immunisation history of their child, a ‘catch up’ schedule or the ‘conscientious objection’ documents signed by a doctor. They can be signed only after doctors have explained the benefits and risks of immunisations to the parents.

3910 ‘conscientious objection’ forms have been lodged this year alone with the highest number coming from NSW parents. So the number has tripled from 2012 figures. This is despite there being reported outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in NSW. It is the highest number of objectors ever recorded by the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register since 1999 taking the total number of conscientious objectors to 36,320 out of 2.2 million.

NSW continues to record the highest number of vaccination objectors, accounting for 9625 of the total number of conscientious objectors at the end of last year. That was 1102 more than at the end of 2012.

Health authorities are doing all they can to keep immunisation numbers up including ‘no jab no play’ and education campaigns. Some of the increase can be explained by the fact more centres require forms before allowing unvaccinated children to attend however the number of unvaccinated children continues to rise.

Just what will it take for some parents to realise the importance of vaccinations? We all know the answer to that. Massive outbreaks of preventable disease. It seems so unreasonable when mothers in developing nations line up overnight to have their children immunised. They live the reality of low rates of vaccination each and every day. They can tell you why vaccinations are so important. They can explain the end result.

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Childcare operators can be fined $4000 for not keeping immunisation records up to day however are being forced to accept unvaccinated children as long as the objection forms are completed. The objection is normally cited as philosophical, moral or medical grounds.

A report from the National Health Performance Authority has shown Australia’s wealthiest Sydney suburbs have the lowest rates of immunisation. These include Mosman, Manly, the inner city and the eastern suburbs. Other areas of NSW hardest hit include Byron Bay and the Blue Mountains.

Some parents are catching up on immunisations due to the new restrictions. They are the ones who have merely fallen behind and don’t oppose vaccinations.

Nicholas Wood, a doctor at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and senior lecturer on paediatrics and child health at the University of Sydney, said it’s unimmunised children who are at most risk of disease. ”At an individual level, that [unvaccinated] child is not protected,” he told smh.com.au. This can be children who are attending the centre or newborn children not yet immunised and only at the centre as older siblings are dropped off and picked up.

So, how far do we take it? How far should authorities go when it comes to encouraging parents to vaccinate their children? Should there be childcare centres just for unvaccinated children? How would they be managed and staffed?

Do we start putting a scarlet letter on unvaccinated kids just in case our children run into them at the playground and in shopping centres? It’s frustrating because I don’t want to be the kind of mother who judges other parents’choices, but I’m also really worried about it. My concerns about the health of my children are valid.

I don’t want unvaccinated children to be ostracised but faced with a choice between my children attending childcare with unvaccinated kids and attending childcare where everyone is vaccinated, I choose the later.

Should there be childcare centres that cater exclusively for unvaccinated children?

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