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
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.