Vaccinations for early childhood staff

Published on Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Last updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2020

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Early childhood educators are at increased risk of contracting a range of vaccine preventable diseases through their regular and ongoing contact with children. There is also a chance staff can pass on communicable diseases to children who are either too young to have had all their injections or who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

To protect yourself and the children in your service it's important to keep your vaccinations up-to-date, and while this isn't compulsory for early childhood staff it's highly recommended.

There is a range of vaccine preventable diseases which early childhood staff can be protected from and recommended vaccinations include:

  • hepatitis A
  • measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) (persons born during or since 1966 who have only received one dose of the MMR vaccine should have a second dose)
  • chickenpox (if not previously infected)
  • pertussis (whooping cough) (an adult booster dose)
  • influenza (annual vaccination)

Risk management

As mentioned above vaccination for early childhood staff is not mandatory and managers are not permitted to apply pressure to staff to vaccinate. The most effective way to ensure staff stay up-to-date with vaccinations is to encourage a culture of information and support, where staff understand the risks and benefits of being unvaccinated and are supported to get their vaccinations done.

According to Worksafe Queensland the best protection for workers against diseases that are preventable by vaccination is an occupational immunisation program that:

  • includes an immunisation policy which states:
    • the workplace's vaccination requirements
    • how vaccine refusal, medical contraindication to vaccination (medical condition which makes vaccination inadvisable) and vaccine failure will be managed
    • how the risks to contract and labour hire workers, students, volunteers and others will be managed
  • requires all at risk workers to complete an immunisation record for the relevant vaccine-preventable diseases
  • identifies non-immune and incompletely immunised workers from the immunisation record and encourages them to be vaccinated in accordance with the immunisation policy
  • provides workers with information about the relevant vaccine-preventable disease(s) and the availability of vaccination
  • updates each worker's immunisation record following vaccination.

Managing vaccine refusal

If staff members in your service refuse vaccination or can't be vaccinated for medical reasons you should conduct a risk assessment to determine the most effective way to protect these people from infection when an outbreak occurs. This is especially important in early childhood settings where infections have the potential to spread very quickly.

Control measures may include:

  • appropriate work placement and adjustment (e.g. consider placing workers who have received the adult pertussis booster to care for the youngest infants)
  • review of work practices to ensure safe systems of work for infection prevention and control
  • additional information, instruction, training and supervision
  • personal protective equipment

In addition, in the event of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, it may be necessary to implement work exclusions, restrictions or adjustments to protect non-immune workers and prevent further spread of the disease.

Australian Immunisation Register

Rather than relying on memory to confirm their vaccination status, staff should be encouraged to access an Immunisation History Statement from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). These details are accessible via a persons Medicare online account through myGov , the Medicare Express Plus App or by calling the AIR General Enquiries Line on 1800 653 809

For more information download the NHMRC's Staying Healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services (5th Edition).

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