LIMBO FOR KIDS

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - GRANT McARTHUR

THE fu­tures of un­vac­ci­nated stu­dents at more than 15 kinder­gartens and child­care cen­tres are un­der a cloud be­cause they have ex­emp­tions granted by rogue anti-vax GP Dr John Piesse.

Many more kinder­gartens could still be brought into the anti-vac­ci­na­tion scan­dal, while the full ex­tent of sus­pect im­mu­ni­sa­tion ex­emp­tion forms may never be known due to gap­ing holes in Aus­tralian and Vic­to­rian “No Jab” laws.

The Sun­day Herald Sun has learned that more than 15 early child­hood cen­tres have so far in­formed the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion that they have un­vac­ci­nated stu­dents at­tend­ing with ex­emp­tion forms signed by the Mitcham GP.

Dr Piesse’s med­i­cal regis­tra­tion was sus­pended on Thurs­day fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions in the Herald Sun that he claimed to have helped up to 600 fam­i­lies avoid com­pul­sory vac­ci­na­tions.

Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Alex Munro con­firmed kinder­gartens and child care cen­tres had come for­ward to check the sta­tus of un­vac­ci­nated stu­dents, but would not con­firm other de­tails due to pri­vacy pro­vi­sions.

“A small num­ber of ser­vices have con­tacted us with queries about the vac­ci­na­tion ex­emp­tion let­ters pro­vided by Dr John Piesse, fol­low­ing a re­cent com­mu­ni­ca­tion sent by the depart­ment to all ser­vices in Vic­to­ria re­gard­ing the is­sue,” he said.

The fam­i­lies are be­ing asked to seek a se­cond med­i­cal opin­ion on whether their chil­dren have a valid rea­son not to be vac­ci­nated.

If chil­dren are found not to meet the strict cri­te­ria needed for an ex­emp­tion, their fam­i­lies may be forced to with­draw them from kinder­gartens or un­dergo im­mu­ni­sa­tion un­der Vic­to­ria’s No Jab, No Play laws.

How­ever, holes in the An­drews Gov­ern­ment’s No Jab, No Play and the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment’s No Jab, No Play laws may mean many of those with il­le­git­i­mate ex­emp­tions are never iden­ti­fied.

Be­cause Vic­to­rian author­i­ties do not com­pile a cen­tral reg­is­ter of ex­emp­tions, in­stead re­ly­ing on in­di­vid­ual kinder­gartens to store the forms, the only way of iden­ti­fy­ing fam­i­lies sidestep­ping the laws is if their cen­tres no­tify author­i­ties.

The va­lid­ity of some ex­emp­tions has also be­come un­cer­tain after the fed­eral gov­ern­ment last year en­dorsed doc­tors who were not ac­cred­ited gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers to is­sue the cer­tifi­cates.

The fed­eral Depart­ment of Health launched a re­view into the wa­ter­ing down of ex­emp­tions in the wake of the Dr Piesse rev­e­la­tions.

But Vic­to­ria’s Op­po­si­tion health spokes­woman, Mary Wooldridge, ac­cused Pre­mier Daniel An­drews of pur­pose- fully cre­at­ing a loop­hole in the state leg­is­la­tion, al­low­ing some to avoid vac­ci­na­tion, and fail­ing to put in place any mon­i­tor­ing to gauge the im­pact.

Un­der Aus­tralian laws, a doc­tor can grant an ex­emp­tion based on the knowl­edge a child may suf­fer se­vere re­ac­tions to a vac­ci­na­tion.

How­ever, ex­emp­tions can­not be granted merely on the ba­sis of chil­dren suf­fer­ing mild ill­nesses with­out fever, a fam­ily his­tory of is­sues or con­vul­sions after vac­cines, hav­ing re­place­ment cor­ti­cos­teroids, asthma, eczema, at­ro­phy, hay fever, a low weight, or neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Reg­is­ter.

But in a video record­ing of Dr Piesse ad­dress­ing a Hawthorn anti-vac­ci­na­tion fo­rum, the GP de­scribed how doc­tors did not have to in­clude a rea­son for grant­ing an ex­emp­tion on their No Jab No Play forms.

“Rea­son is not re­quired. In fact, it is a good idea not to, be­cause it is only go­ing to at­tract a lot of ar­gu­ments, to-ing and fro-ing, ques­tions, and anx­i­ety for the doc­tor. But so what?” Dr Piesse said.

Dr John Piesse’s med­i­cal regis­tra­tion has been sus­pended.

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