AN OUTBREAK of whooping cough has caused a North Coast childcare centre to temporarily exclude unimmunised children.
Four children attending Federal Community Children's Centre have been infected by pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial disease that kills about 250,000 children worldwide each year.
Paul Corben, director of public health for the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts imposed the 14-day ban in accordance with the 2010 Public Health Act.
"Vaccination is the most important way of reducing pertussis in our community," Mr Corben said in a public statement.
The move has reignited the "no jab, no play" debate involving recent amendments to the Public Health Act that will soon give childcare centres the power to ban unimmunised children from January 1, 2014.
"Making it mandatory for parents and guardians to supply childcare facilities and schools with documentation about their children's immunisation status will increase vaccination rates," said Brian Owler, president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association.
Naturopath of 15 years, Peter Keil, whose daughter Sofia attends FCCC, said even though the whooping cough vaccine "only protects eight out of 10 of those who receive it, the benefits far outweighed the risks."
"To maintain herd immunity you need high community participation, which for whooping cough is around 95%, and in this area we are much lower than that."
North Coast father-of-two Thom Evans said the new provisions were "pure discrimination in the interests of corporate pharmaceutical companies."
"Most of the diseases children are immunised for are common, low-risk diseases of childhood which hold no dangers whatsoever to healthy, uncompromised children," he said.
Emergency department specialist doctor and father-of-four Dr Martin Chase said science had clearly shown that modern day immunisations result in "a lot of good and very little harm."
"It is time to stop viewing immunisation as a personal choice, eg. 'I choose not to wear a seatbelt' - when it is a social responsibility - eg. 'I shouldn't drink-drive'," he said.