Under changes to the Public Health Act 2010 no children can enrol in an approved early childhood service after 1 January 2018 unless approved forms are provided showing that the child is fully immunised for their age or there is a medical reason not to be vaccinated, or the child is on a recognised catch-up schedule if the child has fallen behind with their vaccinations. Temporary extensions of 12 weeks after enrolment are available for Aboriginal children, those evacuated following a declared natural disaster and those in out of home care.
Unvaccinated children of parents with a conscientious objection to vaccination can no longer enrol in early childhood services. NSW Health has advised that children who were enrolled prior to 1 January 2018, including those enrolled but not due to commence attending an early childhood service until after this date, are not subject to the new requirements.
Parents must provide a copy of one or more of the following documents to enrol in an early childhood service:
No other form of documentation is acceptable (i.e. the former Interim Vaccination Objection Form or Blue Book).
The documents must be stored by the director in a secure location for 3 years, unless a child transfers to another child care service.
NSW Department of Education inspectors will continue to check, as part of routine regulatory activities, that each early childhood education service complies with public health provisions relating to record keeping – i.e. that the service has recorded the vaccination status of children at enrolment in an immunisation register template in the approved form. A register template is available for download from NSW Health.
NSW Health will be responsible for any prosecutorial action. Importantly for independent schools with an associated preschool or long day care service, there is a new offense with 50 penalty units for a principal (or a service director) who fails to comply with the regulations and an offense with 50 penalty units for a person who forges or falsifies a required certificate.
An Immunisation Enrolment Toolkit has been developed to support early childhood education and care services to comply with their legal responsibilities under the Public Health Act 2010.
Further information on immunisation requirements for early childhood services is available online from NSW Health.