Parents often make every effort to keep up the best preventative health measures with their children through vaccination, but sometimes all this can still be in vain if the holistic concept of herd immunity is not upheld in their child’s little world. What is more concerning is when the child’s little world involves very important people who may themselves not be immunised or up to date. Such is often the case with Childcare & Early Learning Centre staff (emerging research ahead!)…
But first, a herd refresher.
This whole notion of herd immunity can be a little tricky to grasp given it’s an ‘invisible concept’ but it becomes rather real when we see vaccinated children catching illnesses from non-vaccinated but infected school peers (chickenpox, for example). For a refresher on herd immunity, see the video below (also found on our facebook page). Essentially, we need around 95% of the herd to be ‘up to date’ to statistically limit the chances of a disease making spread in the herd should they come into contact with said threat. When we consider childcare/early learning staff into this equation, are they bringing this figure down below unsafe levels in a child’s environment in care?
The staff are often weakening the herd.
As much as the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has put National Standards in place around health in Australian facilities, these standards are rather skewed toward the focus on cleanliness, hygiene and a child-health focus. We know all about the Australian Government’s ‘no jab no pay‘ policy which was introduced in recent times which has put pressure on parents or their carers to vaccinate in order to receive financial support toward childcare and other benefits. This is an initiative that again focuses very much on the children.
So in the setting of a snotty childcare centre, who is also paying attention to the adults?
But what about the staff?
Staff routinely will need to provide their immunisation status upon engagement of employment, but who is re-checking their currency as time passes? Are policies in place to ensure annual flu shots are offered (much like aged care), and what about whooping cough boosters every five (not ten) years? Queensland Health advocates that Hepatitis A immunisation is upheld when working with young children (https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/immunisation/occupational#children).
While Facilities and management would argue the onus should be on the staff member to keep vaccinations current, staff would argue they aren’t keeping up to date for a variety of reasons. From our experience in working directly in primary care and mobile vaccinations, staff cite reasons such as: 1. not prioritising this as an agenda for their time outside of work, 2. not understanding or being misinformed about what vaccines they need to boost and how often, 3. cost barriers (being lower paid: wage crisis).
So who should be responsible?
This question is important because not having a concise answer is exactly why a gap is emerging in staff vaccination currency and it is putting children at risk through lowering herd immunity. Anti-vaxer’s are easy targets to focus blame, but there is a more subtle threat to be worried about, and that is those who are nonchalant or ignorant to their responsibility.
We are VirtueVax understand the time and cost pressures that Childcare and Early Learning staff have (we see them as patients in our GP setting and know what else they struggle to keep up with!). Time is tight when their work hours often start and finish after even the parents’ hours of work. We are here to help!
Staff at VirtueVax are able to attend Childcare Centres for an obligation free Director/Manager/Owner meeting to discuss their policies, risks and obligations, along with reviewing any staff currencies and requirements they may have (at staff prior consent). We offer this because we know this matters. VirtueVax staff attending are fully qualified Doctors (often also working as GPs so they know alllll about vaccines and these types of diseases and blood tests). We then offer a tailored vaccination program to the Centre’s staff, along with any outstanding blood pathology testing for staff to check their immunity (cc. their usual GP) to save time and get to task asap. This vaccination service is scheduled and held with all payment options being offered to suit, from staff eftpos payment on the day through to invoicing the Facility the total.
We simply want to see better staff vaccination rates in Childcare (because we know people are paying enough attention to the children already!). Once completed, VirtueVax provides a Currency Certificate which can be proudly displayed for families at the Entry. Just like this one!
If you’re a parent reading this and now wondering about your own child’s staff situation, pass our name (VirtueVax) along to your Director or Admin next time you’re signing your child in. It’s an obligation free interaction to help establish the need and options. We’re based on the Gold Coast and happy to travel the SEQ corner to help improve this issue and remove the usual barriers.
So reach out, or fill in our form below this blog post to have us reach out to you. Even SHARE this blog post to your social media to help raise awareness, because sometimes people power from the coal face is what enacts change from the bottom up.
We can all play a role in broadening the understanding of this issue and supporting the Childcare Herd to be stronger!
Hope to see you all soon!