Health Minister Simon Harris is calling on creches to demand that all children are vaccinated before they are given a childcare place.
Mr Harris is already considering legal advice on mandatory vaccinations, but has said there is nothing to stop childcare providers immediately putting in place “good practice” by banning children who are not immunised.
“This is an issue that we take really seriously because the World Health Organization has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the greatest global threats to public health,” said Mr Harris.
“It’s really irresponsible to send your child to a creche unvaccinated because that’s not just a decision you’re making about your own child. That’s a decision you’re making about my child, it’s a decision you are making other children, children who are too young perhaps to have had some of their key vaccinations.”
Calling on creches to introduce admissions’ policies that require children to be vaccinated, Mr Harris said: “You don’t need to change the laws for creche providers to put in place good practice. I understand that already some creches will say to parents before they accept your child: ‘Can you show me that your child has vaccinations?’.
“A lot of parents would like to know that their child is going to a creche where the creche makes sure all the other kids are vaccinated so I think perhaps it could even be good for their business.
“I would encourage creche owners to consider how they could make this good practice, maybe perhaps make it a guideline.”
It is understood that the attorney general has raised concerns around mandatory vaccination at primary school level as it could interfere with the constitutional right to education.
However, Mr Harris could still get around this hurdle by making it a legal requirement for children attending creches.
“I have asked the attorney general for legal advice and I have received that provisional advice,” said Mr Harris.
I have no interest in introducing a measure for the sake of introducing it and I want to do something that is effective. But I am keeping an open mind on it.
“Children in Ireland have a constitutional right to an education, creches aren’t included in the Constitution so it may be easier to do something legally at an age earlier than going to primary school.”