A baby gets an injection. Vaccination. Child. Syringe. Generic image. Source: Supplied
PARENTS who refuse to vaccinate their children may not be getting comprehensive information on the benefits of immunisation because there is no checklist for doctors to follow.
Department of Health and Ageing officials have told a Senate estimates committee that they are not aware of a checklist for medical practitioners when counselling parents who don’t want to protect their children from infectious diseases.
Asked by doctor and Greens Senator Richard di Natale whether doctors were assisted in their counselling by such a checklist a departmental official replied: “Not that I’m aware of”.
Senator di Natale said vaccines saved lives.
“It’s really important that parents are made fully aware of the risks they would be exposing their children to if they refuse to vaccinate,” he said.
Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children must undergo a counselling session with a medical practitioner and get them to sign a conscientious objection form to claim the childcare rebate and get their child into a childcare centre.
The department is moving to make conscientious objection to immunisation a more distasteful option by changing the terminology applied to these parents.
Conscientious objection forms are undergoing a name change to become “vaccine refuser” forms, the department told the Senate.
At the same time, the Health Department is working with the Families Department to change the legislation which allows conscientious objectors to vaccines to receive a childcare rebate.
The words “vaccine refuser” would replace conscientious objector in the legislation if this proceeds.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton said he did not think doctors required a checklist for counselling parents who did not want to vaccinate their children.
The Academy of Science’s Myths and Realities booklet, available on the internet, was a good resource for doctors to use in this situation, he said.
Only a minority of parents were hard core anti-vaccination and most parents listened and changed their mind when they talked through issues with their doctors, he said.
Dr Hambleton supported the idea of changing government terminology for parents who won’t vaccinate their kids from conscientious objectors to vaccine refusers.
“I support that. The reality is there is no good medical reason to be a conscientious objector,” he said.
“Vaccine refusers says it like it is, they should be named for what they do,” he said.
The DoH has also revealed that the take up rate of the cervical cancer vaccine by teenage girls lags well behind childhood immunisation rates.
While around 90 per cent of young children are immunised only 70 per cent of 15 year old girls have had the cervical cancer vaccine.
Departmental officials speculated that this might be because parents were likely to consult a teenage girl on whether she wanted the jab.
Herald Sun – 06 June 2013