It is much less likely that someone who isn’t immune will meet an infected person and catch the disease. To protect their health and the health of their families, friends, and communities, it is important to vaccinate all children.

The national goal for coverage in Australia to get herd immunity against diseases is 95 percent. The Australian Government made available a series of free vaccinations for children aged 0 to 4 years to protect them against serious diseases. Reaching herd immunity will help stop the spread of vaccine-preventable disease.

Let’s discuss further how this affects children in early childhood service.

Childcare vaccination and immunisation requirements

“Vaccination” and “immunisation” are not exactly the same. Getting vaccinated means getting the vaccine, either by mouth or by needle, while immunisation means both getting the vaccine and becoming protected by it.

Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act of 2008, an early childhood education and care service for young children cannot confirm a child’s enrolment in child care unless it has proof that the child has been immunised at the right age or has an approved exemption.

Immunisation requirements for child care include:

  • Be up-to-date on the vaccinations listed in the National Immunisation Program‘s Child programmes table, or
  • Be on what the Australian Immunisation Handbook (View this link) calls a “suitable catch-up schedule,” or
  • Have a medical exemption on file with the AIR.

What is the ‘no jab no play’ policy?

The ‘No Jab No Play’ policy, through the Department of Health Public Health Act which went into effect on January 1, 2016, requires children to have immunisation against vaccine preventable diseases. If a child is not fully immunised according to the National Immunisation Program schedule, parents will not be able to claim child care fee assistance.

Visit the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) to check whether your child is fully immunised and can be enrolled in child care and early childhood service. Contact health services to organise a vaccination catch-up program if your child is not fully immunised.

Your child must meet immunisation requirements if you get Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A or child care fee assistance.

Some exemptions apply, but vaccination objection is not a valid exemption.

New vaccination requirements for childcare

As of 1 July 2020, the following have been added to the schedule.

  • The meningococcal ACWY vaccine has been introduced
  • There has been a change in the timing for the infant pneumococcal vaccine
  • There has been a change in the timing for the Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine

Keep in mind that each State and Territory has its own immunisation schedule. This means that there may be more government-funded vaccines that can be used in your area.

Why have these changes been made?

The National Immunization Program (NIP) schedule has been changed in several ways. After suggestions from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and other clinical experts, the changes were made in 2020.

The changes are meant to improve public health and make people safer from meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, and Haemophilus influenzae type b. The schedule for vaccinating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children against hepatitis A has also changed.

Do you have to be vaccinated to go to childcare in Australia?

Yes, as a part of day care policies and procedures, children have to be vaccinated to go to childcare. Parents will need to give an up-to-date copy of their child’s AIR Immunisation History Statement when they sign up for child care, kindergarten, elementary school, or high school. Child’s vaccinations so helps keep children healthy and avoid spreading sicknesses while in school care.

Which vaccines must a child have to be fully vaccinated?

Australian children between 0 to 4 years old are given immunisation against 13 vaccine preventable diseases that are recommended and funded by the Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP). Annual influenza (flu) immunisations are also funded for unimmunised children in this age group by the NIP.

A medical practitioner will give a child immunisation against the following diseases:

  1. Hepatitis B
  2. Diphtheria
  3. Tetanus
  4. Pertussis whooping cough
  5. Haemophilus influenzae type b
  6. Polio
  7. Pneumococcal disease
  8. Rotavirus
  9. A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal disease.
  10. Measles
  11. Mumps
  12. Rubella
  13. Chickenpox

Which children are exempt from the new requirements

Unimmunised children with valid medical reason or medical contraindication or specific medical conditions may be exempt from the new immunisation requirements.

The following are medical conditions that may qualify a child for an exemption from having a vaccine:

  • the child had anaphylaxis after a previous dose of a vaccine
  • the child had anaphylaxis after a dose of any component of a vaccine
  • children that are significantly immunocompromised—for live vaccines only
  • children who have natural immunity—for hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox only.

Health professionals who can grant an exemption are limited to general practice registrars on an authorized 3GA training placement, paediatricians, public health doctors, infectious diseases doctors, clinical immunologists, and GPs who satisfy particular requirements.

A child’s AIR must be updated and the child care centre must be informed regarding the exemption.

What if a child was vaccinated overseas?

Parents must provide acceptable proof of their child’s vaccination overseas to a recognised immunisation provider in Australia. Overseas immunisation records or any official record of a child’s immunisation status will usually suffice.

If the immunisation record requires translation, check the Free Translating Service on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Once the records have been accepted, the health professional will take care of updating the AIR of the child.

How immunisation requirements can affect your payments

Children must meet the Government’s immunisation requirements to be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy.

To claim Family Tax Benefit or Child Care Subsidy, you need to provide your child’s Medicare Card number and their Individual Reference Number – the number next to their name on your Medicare Card.

These details are used to check with the AIR whether a child meets immunisation requirements.

Child Care Subsidy

If you are receiving child care subsidy and your child is no longer able to qualify because the child misses or has insufficient immunisation requirements, you will have 63 days to be up to date on immunisation. If you don’t, your child will form part of the unvaccinated children and any future or additional child care subsidy will be terminated.

Family Tax Benefit (Part A)

If your child isn’t immunised, the Australian government may cut your Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A payments. Your fortnightly payments may drop by up to $30.66 for each non-compliant child.

At the end-of-year payment balancing, they will ensure that the correct family assistance payments have been made.

Services Australia will also examine your child’s immunisation status for lump sum claims. They will cut your FTB Part A payment during the lump sum claim period if your child doesn’t qualify.

When to immunise and vaccinate your child

To be fully protected against vaccine preventable disease, your child will need to be immunised 2-4 times at different children aged zero to 4.

  • Birth – one immunisation for hepatitis B
  • At 6-8 weeks – three immunisations, two by injection and one by ingestion (liquid)
    • combined injection for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b)
    • injection for pneumococcal
    • oral drops for rotavirus (6 to 14 weeks of age)
  • At 4 months – three immunisations, two by injection and one by ingestion (liquid)
    • combined injection for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b)
    • injection for pneumococcal
    • oral drops for rotavirus (10 to 24 weeks of age)
  • At 6 months – one immunisation for hepatitis B
    • combined injection for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b)
    • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (QLD, NT, WA, and SA) and medically at-risk children, an additional vaccine for pneumococcal
  • At 12 months – three immunisations
    • injection for meningococcal ACWY
    • combined injection for measles, mumps and rubella
    • injection for pneumococcal
    • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (QLD, NT, WA, and SA), an additional vaccine for hepatitis A
  • At 18 months – three immunisations, all by injection
    • injection for Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b)
    • combined injection for measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox)
    • combined injection for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough)
    • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (QLD, NT, WA, and SA), an additional vaccine for hepatitis A
  • At 4 years – one immunisation
    • combined injection for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio
    • for medically at-risk children, an additional vaccine for pneumococcal
  • Every year – influenza immunisation

For more information, the National Immunisation Program Schedule provides a list of the vaccines currently recommended.

What forms are required to be provided? What forms are required to be provided?

In order for a child to be accepted into a childcare facility, they are required to submit proof of immunisation. As you prepare your child for day care, make sure to include your child’s Immunisation History Statement (for a child that is up to date or can’t be immunised for medical reasons) or an AIR Immunisation History Form (for a child on a catch-up schedule).

How to get an immunisation history statement

The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) keeps track of all of your child’s vaccination and immunisations.

Immunisation history statements are an important part of a personal health record. Parents can use it as proof that a child has had all of the recommended vaccinations.

Once a child is signed up for Medicare, they are automatically put on the AIR. You can ask for a statement about your child’s immunisation history at any time through your Medicare online account on myGov, by asking your child’s provider, or by calling 1800 653 809 and asking for the AIR.

You can also let your doctor use the AIR to look at your child’s immunisation history. This can help you figure out when and which shots your child needs.

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