Immunisation

Requirements for immunisation vary according to the level of education in which a child/student is enrolling. Recent changes in NSW have meant that a child cannot enrol in an early childhood education service operating under the National Early Childhood Education and Care Law and Regulations (such as a preschool or long day care centre) unless approved documentation is provided showing that they are fully vaccinated for their age, or are on a recognised catch-up schedule, or have a medical reason not to be vaccinated.


Parents of children enrolling in primary or secondary schools must be asked for an approved immunisation certificate, but if this is not available, the student may still be enrolled, subject to required procedures (e.g. unvaccinated children may be excluded from school for the duration of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease). Further detailed information is available below for each level of education.

Regulations and Programs
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Early Childhood Education Services


The following information relates to students enrolled in approved early childhood education services, such as preschools and long day care centres, operating under the National Early Childhood Education and Care Law and Regulations. Children enrolled in school-based Prep or Kindergarten minus 1 classes are not subject to these requirements (please refer to information for primary schools).


Background

Parents of all children who enrolled up to 31 December 2017 were required to provide the correct forms to the early childhood service – proving either that the child was fully immunised for their age or that they were on a recognised catch-up schedule or that they had a medical exemption or that their parents had a conscientious objection to vaccination. Until 31 December 2017, unvaccinated children could enrol in NSW early childhood education services, however these children were not eligible for Commonwealth Child Care Benefits or Rebates or other family assistance payments.


Requirements from 1 January 2018

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.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can parents access the AIR Immunisation History Statement?

Parents automatically receive their child’s AIR Immunisation History Statement in the mail after the child has completed their immunisation schedule (sometime after 4 years of age).

Parents may obtain a copy of their child's immunisation details at any time by:

 calling the AIR General Enquiries Line on 1800 653 809.

What if a child was vaccinated overseas?

Overseas immunisation records must not be accepted by early childhood services. The only acceptable record of complete immunisation is the AIR Immunisation History Statement – i.e. Australian certification. Vaccination records obtained overseas may be recorded by the early childhood service for your own information, but are insufficient on their own without AIR documentation to demonstrate compliance with the requirements.

An early childhood service may wish to provide information for parents of children vaccinated overseas about the implications of not having the required records and advise them to have their overseas vaccination records assessed by an Australian immunisation provider who will transfer the information to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). Parents can then request an AIR Immunisation History Statement, or contact the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809.

  • If an Immunisation History Statement, AIR Immunisation History Form or an AIR Immunisation Medical Exemption form is subsequently provided by the AIR and the parent gives this to the early childhood service, the child may then be enrolled.


Primary Schools


Under the Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012, NSW primary schools are required to seek an Immunisation History Statement for each enrolled child prior to enrolment. If the parent of a primary school child cannot produce this record, the student may still be enrolled but can be excluded from school on the direction of a public health officer for the duration of the outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in the school. If an unimmunised child comes in contact with a vaccine preventable disease outside school, they can also be asked to stay home during the incubation period to reduce the risk of starting an outbreak.

The only acceptable evidence that a child is fully immunised for their age is the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) Immunisation History Statement (sample here). If a child has received all the vaccines required by 5 years of age, the AIR History Statement will state: "This child has received all vaccines required by 5 years of age".

Children should be recorded as unimmunised if they present with:

an AIR Immunisation History Statement that lists when their next vaccines are due, or

an AIR Immunisation History Form that certifies that they are on a recognised catch-up schedule, or

an AIR Immunisation Medical Exemption Form that certifies they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or

overseas vaccination records or no documentation.

The school must:

  • record each child’s immunisation status in a register and retain copies of approved immunisation certificates for a period of 3 years after the student has ceased to attend the school
  • provide a copy of a student’s immunisation certificate to another school that the student has transferred to (upon request)
  • notify the public health unit if an enrolled student has a vaccine preventable disease, or if they reasonably believe that an unimmunised enrolled student has come into contact with someone who has a vaccine preventable disease
  • exclude unimmunised students at risk of contracting a disease from attending school on the direction of a public health officer.

NSW Health has a School Immunisation Enrolment Toolkit to support schools to comply with their legal responsibilities under the Public Health Act.

Further information is also available from the NSW Health School Immunisation website.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can parents access the AIR Immunisation History Statement?

The AIR automatically sends an Immunisation History Statement to parents in the mail after the child completes their 4 year old immunisations and the GP/nurse sends the information to the AIR.

Parents may obtain a copy of their child's immunisation details at any time by:

 calling the AIR General Enquiries Line on 1800 653 809.


What if a student was vaccinated overseas?

The only acceptable record of immunisation is the AIR Immunisation History Statement – i.e. Australian certification. Vaccination records obtained overseas may be recorded by the school for your own information, but are insufficient on their own without the AIR certificate to demonstrate compliance with the requirements.

 Schools may provide information for parents of students vaccinated overseas about the implications of not having the required records and advise them to:

  • have their overseas immunisation records assessed by an Australian immunisation provider who will transfer the information to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). Parents can then request an AIR Immunisation History Statement,
  • or contact the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809.

 If an Immunisation History Statement is subsequently provided by the AIR and the parent gives this to the school, the child’s status on the immunisation register may then be updated.

Do students in OSHC services need to be vaccinated?

No. While Out of School Hours Care services (i.e. for school aged children) are regulated under the Early Childhood Education and Care provisions of the National Law, the NSW Health website notes that children who are enrolled in formal schooling, and who are attending before or after school care (either on school campuses or externally), are subject to requirements for primary school children and are exempt from the immunisation/enrolment requirements that apply to early childhood services such as preschools and long day care centres.



Secondary Schools


From 1 April 2018, secondary schools became subject to the same immunisation requirements that previously applied only to primary schools. That is, NSW secondary schools are now required to request approved immunisation certificates for each student prior to enrolment.

If the parent cannot produce this record, the student may still be enrolled but can be excluded from school on the direction of a public health officer for the duration of the outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in the school. If an unimmunised student comes into contact with a vaccine preventable disease outside school, they can also be asked to stay home during the incubation period to reduce the risk of starting an outbreak.

The only acceptable evidence of immunisation is an Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) Immunisation History Statement (see sample here). If a student has received all the vaccines required by 5 years of age, the AIR History Statement will state: "This child has received all vaccines required by 5 years of age".

Secondary students should be recorded as unimmunised if they present with:

an AIR Immunisation History Statement that lists when their next vaccinations are due, or

an AIR Immunisation History Form that certifies that they are on a recognised catch-up schedule, or

an AIR Immunisation Medical Exemption Form that certifies they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or

overseas vaccination records, or

no documentation.

On enrolment, the school must:

  • record each student’s immunisation status in a register and retain copies of approved immunisation certificates for a period of 3 years after the student has ceased to attend the school. A template for record-keeping may be downloaded from NSW Health, however schools may choose to keep records in another form, provided all the required information is maintained.
  • provide a copy of a student’s immunisation certificate to another school that the student has transferred to (upon request)
  • notify the public health unit if an enrolled student has a vaccine preventable disease, or if they reasonably believe that an unimmunised enrolled student has come into contact with someone who has a vaccine preventable disease
  • exclude unimmunised students at risk of contracting a disease from attending school on the direction of a public health officer.

NSW Health has developed a School Immunisation Enrolment Toolkit to support schools to comply with their legal responsibilities under the Public Health Act.

Further information about vaccination requirements for schools is available from the NSW Health School Immunisation website.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do the new requirements apply to existing enrolments in secondary schools?

No. New requirements to collect immunisation history information apply only to new enrolments from 1 April 2018 regardless of age.

However, while there is no requirement for schools to collect immunisation histories for secondary students already enrolled in the school, schools may wish to consider collecting any Immunisation History Statements that are currently available from existing students, as any student without the appropriate records will be considered to be unimmunised.

NSW Health advice confirms that “in the event of an outbreak, or if an unimmunised enrolled student comes into contact with a vaccine preventable disease, then the public health unit medical officer will work with the school to take appropriate action to minimise the risk of transmission, including potentially excluding children listed as unimmunised. As students enrolled since 1 April 2018 move through the school years, this will progressively become less of an issue”.

Are K-12 schools required to seek an Immunisation History Statement for students moving from the school’s primary years to secondary years?

No – these students are not considered to be new enrolments.

Do the requirements apply to students over the age of 18?

Yes. The requirements apply to all new enrolments, regardless of age.

Do the requirements apply to overseas students?

Yes. The only acceptable record that a child is fully immunised for their age is the AIR Immunisation History Statement – i.e. Australian certification. Vaccination records obtained overseas may be recorded by the school for the school’s own information, but are insufficient on their own without the AIR certificate to demonstrate compliance with the requirements.

Schools should therefore consider requesting an AIR certificate with enrolment documentation for overseas/international students. Schools may also provide information for parents about the implications of not having the required records and advise them to:

  • have their overseas immunisation records assessed by an Australian immunisation provider who will transfer the information to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). Parents can then request an AIR Immunisation History Statement, or
  • contact the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809.

 If an Immunisation History Statement is subsequently provided by the AIR and the parent gives this to the school, the student’s status on the school’s immunisation register may then be updated.


How can parents access the AIR Immunisation History Statement?

The AIR automatically sends an Immunisation History Statement to parents in the mail after the child completes their 4 year old immunisations and the GP/nurse sends the information to the AIR.

Parents may obtain a copy of their child's immunisation details at any time by:

Students aged 14 years and over can request their own Immunisation History Statement from the AIR by using or creating their own Medicare online account through MyGov

Do secondary students require vaccinations in addition to those required for primary students?

No– for the purposes of enrolment requirements, the vaccinations required by NSW Health are the same as those for primary students, and are usually completed by age 5 (or later if on a recognised catch-up schedule). However, some additional vaccinations are recommended but are not compulsory  for secondary students. Information about vaccination schedules for secondary school students is available here.