As many as 25 per cent of the children who attend a Brunswick school that calls for tolerance for vaccine dodgers have contracted chickenpox.
According to a story in The Age, at least 80 of the 320 pupils at Brunswick North West Primary in Melbourne’s north have become ill with the disease in the past fortnight.
It is understood the illness spread through grade 6, before making its way through the lower levels to grade 2, the report says.
In the May edition of the school’s newsletter, the principal Trevor Bowen said 73.2 per cent of students were immunised, compared with 92 per cent within the local postcode.
The Department of Health was first notified about the chickenpox cases on November 26. A department spokesman told The Age that “There are no firm figures on the number of students who have contracted the illness since then, but we’ve been advised that over the period there has been an absentee rate of about 25 per cent on any given day.”
The school says it respects “the rights of every family to make choices about immunisation”.
Currently no school in Victoria can bar a child who is not vaccinated from enrolling. The state government’s “No Jab, No Play” laws come into effect on January 1 next year, but they do not apply to primary or high schools. Under the policy, pre-schoolers who are not vaccinated will be banned from attending child care or kindergarten.
A previous newsletter aiming to take the heat out of the conflict said there were many areas of school life where a range of opinions were accommodated.
Vaccination rates across the state of Victoria have plateaued at about 90 per cent for a number of years, something Health Minister Jill Hennessy wants to address.
“We’re significantly concerned about the myth makers who go out encouraging people not to immunise their children,” she told The Age.
“Get your advice from a doctor, not from some quack who’s opposed to vaccination based on dodgy science.”