Under new reforms by NSW Health, high school students who fail to get their annual flu jabs could be banned from attending class.
Currently, public health officers have the power to exclude unvaccinated children from childcare care and primary school during outbreaks of diseases like measles, however this will now extend to high schools.
Children will face a two-week ban from their educational or childcare facilities, even if they come into contact with another child who is suffering from a vaccine-preventable disease regardless of whether or not they are sick themselves.
While the move is designed to mitigate potential health risks for students, there are fears it may lead to a rise in in rogue childcare centres catering only to unvaccinated children.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) NSW president, Brad Frankum, told The Daily Telegraph that having a whole preschool unvaccinated would be “a highly dangerous situation”.
“I see compliance problems with it but in theory we should do everything we can to protect as many kids as we can from vaccine preventable disease.”
He added that there was also the risk of parents lying about their child being vaccinated.
NSW Secondary Principal’s Council (NSWSPC) president, Chris Presland, said parents will often blame the schools is their unvaccinated child is excluded.
“So many things keep getting lumbered onto schools because parents can’t or won’t deal with things,” he said.
He added that schools would unfairly “bear the brunt of parent’s frustration” if an unvaccinated child was excluded.
In February, a measles outbreak in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick affected two schoolchildren at Princess Hill Primary School, forcing several other students, as well as some teachers, to stay at home.
At the time, it was reported that the number of measles cases in Melbourne's north had risen to 14 after the state’s Health Department became aware of a further five cases.
Some doctors blamed anti-vaccination campaigners for the outbreak.
The AMA’s Victoria president, Dr Tony Bartone, told AM “the fact that the immunity in the community is dropping, the fact that we've got dropping rates of the herd immunity in the community — that is clearly part and parcel, one of the reasons”.
Vaccination advocate, Dr John Cunningham, agreed.
“I'd have to say the proof is in the pudding. Brunswick has the measles outbreak and currently the areas around it don't,” Cunningham said.