LIMBO FOR KIDS
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.