People who work with children are at increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. Staff in these workplaces can also transmit vaccine-preventable diseases to the children in their care.
People working with children include:
- staff and students working in early childhood education and care
- correctional staff working where infants and children live with their mothers
- school teachers, including student teachers
- people who work as carers for children outside school hours
- people who work in child counselling services
- people who work in youth services.
Vaccination – why it is important
People who work with children are at an increased risk of catching and passing on infectious diseases. Immunisation is recommended because:
- young children and babies are more prone to illness as their immunity develops
- children are often less likely to practise good hygiene (for example, washing their hands, covering their mouth when they cough, using tissues) and more likely to expose you to their body fluids
- some infectious diseases can be very serious – for example, whooping cough (also called pertussis) can be deadly for young babies, but will often be a mild illness in adults
- many infectious diseases, such as measles, are highly infectious several days before any symptoms appear.
Staying up to date with vaccinations is the most effective way to protect yourself and the children and babies you work with from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines – possible recommendations
The following vaccines may be recommended:
- whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine
- measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine
- chickenpox (varicella) vaccine
- hepatitis A vaccine
- hepatitis B vaccine
- seasonal influenza vaccine.
- MMR (if nonimmune)
- pertussis (dTpa)
- varicella (if nonimmune)
- hepatitis A (for staff working in early childhood education and care)
- hepatitis B (for staff working with people with intellectual disabilities).
The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends the following vaccinations for people working with children:
Your doctor will consider your individual situation and advise you. If you are unsure whether you have already been vaccinated, require a booster or already have immunity to these diseases, talk to your doctor.
Try to keep an accurate record of all your vaccinations so you know what you are protected from and when you need a booster.
For tips on clarifying your immunisation status, visit the Better Health Channel ‘Immunisations catch up’.
If you do need any of these vaccines, your doctor or nurse will give you an injection into the muscle of your upper arm.
Vaccination – who should get vaccinated
People who should be vaccinated are those working closely with children, including:
- childcare and preschool staff
- school staff (including teachers, school nurses, out-of-school carers and welfare coordinators)
- youth and children’s service workers (including child protection workers)
- health and allied health workers
- correctional staff working where children cohabitate with mothers
- vocational students on placement.
Vaccination side effects
Serious side effects from these vaccines are extremely rare. For more information, visit ‘Vaccine safety and adverse event reporting’.
Vaccination frequency varies for each vaccine. Some provide lifelong immunity, while others, such as whooping cough, require booster doses as immunity fades. The seasonal influenza vaccine is recommended every year. Your doctor can advise you.
Vaccination – who pays
Your employer may cover part or all of the cost of staff vaccinations, or you may need to pay. The cost of vaccinations varies from $20 to $60 each, not including the cost of the visit to the doctor.
Workplace vaccination procedures
- develop a staff vaccination policy that states the vaccination requirements for educators and other staff
- develop a staff vaccination record that documents each staff member’s previous infection or vaccination for the diseases listed previously in ‘Vaccines – possible recommendations’
- require all new and current staff to complete the staff vaccination record
- regularly update staff vaccination records as staff become vaccinated
- provide staff with information about vaccine-preventable diseases – for example, through in-service training and written material, such as fact sheets
- take all reasonable steps to encourage nonimmune staff to be vaccinated.
Advice given to educators and other staff, and any refusal to comply with vaccination requests, should be documented.
Staff who are not vaccinated should be excluded from the workplace in the event of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.