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COVID-19 vaccination requirements for education and early childhood settings

The Emergency Management (Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 requires that, from 11 December 2021, all persons working in a South Australian Education or Early Childhood setting must:

  • have received at least one dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine; and
  • have received, or have evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine within the interval after the first dose recommended by the ATAGI for that COVID-19 vaccine.

For clarity ‘work’ includes on a full time, part time, casual, contract or voluntary basis.

Why is this being introduced?

The purpose of this direction is to:

  • maintain the provision of education and early childhood services operating in South Australia despite the presence of COVID-19 in the community;
  • minimise the disruption to those services due to the spread of COVID-19 amongst workers at education and early childhood settings;
  • minimise the disruption to education and early childhood services due to workers being unable to work following possible exposure to COVID-19; and
  • reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 by workers in education and early childhood settings to vulnerable members of the community.

Who does this apply to?

This applies to:

  • Any person employed by the Department for Education or a non-government provider of education or early childhood services
  • Contractors or people employed by governing councils accessing or performing work at education or early childhood settings in the course of their duties (for example gardener, canteen worker, bus drivers, tradesperson, maintenance people, cleaners)
  • An individual volunteering in an education or early childhood service (including governing council/management committee members/parent helpers)
  • Persons who attend an education or early childhood setting in the course of their duties (for example Authorised Officers of the Education Standards Board, government agency staff such as from the Child and Family Health Service (CaFHS), Department of Human Services and Department for Child Protection, allied health professionals, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers, providers of inclusion support, and all non-government organisations or businesses providing services on sites including schools, preschools, children’s centres and child care centres.)
  • Students on placements at an education or early childhood service setting
  • Any person employed by the Department for Education, regardless of their role or location of employment as anyone employed works in support of education and early childhood services operating.

What does an Education or Early Childhood setting mean?

Education or early childhood setting means —

  • Government or non-government school
  • Government or non-government kindergarten, early learning centre or preschool
  • A government or non-government boarding school
  • Department for Education playgroups or playcentres
  • An education and care service premises as defined in the Education and Care Services National Law (South Australia), including:
    • Long day care services
    • Family day care
    • Out of school hours care (OSHC) and vacation care services
    • Preschool programs including those delivered in schools.
  • Any location where the Department for Education carries out any business or undertaking, including:
    • Corporate in Flinders St, Hindmarsh and Pirie St
    • Education offices
    • Locations where the Department for Education’s Respite Care program or Learning Together@Home program are delivered.
  • Any location where an early childhood service as defined in section 4 of the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act 2011 is provided (excluding in home care services such as babysitting agencies), including:
    • Occasional care
    • Rural and mobile care
    • Family day care (sole operators).
  • Any location where an early childhood service formerly referred to as a Budget Based Funded Service as described in Regulation 5(2)(k) of the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011, is provided.

Who does this not apply to?

The emergency direction does not apply to:

  • Delivery drivers or rubbish removalists
  • Parents and families attending education or care settings to pick-up or drop-off children or students or to attend events where they are not working or volunteering
  • Any person in a residential premise where education and care services are provided (including family day care, or Department for Education respite care or Learning Together@Home programs) who are not providing the education or care service (residents, trades people, gardener).
  • Early childhood services provided at creches at gyms or churches
  • Providers of in-home care such as baby sitting services, defined in the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Regulations 2011 as a service comprising the provision of care to children in their own homes in the temporary absence of the children’s parents or guardians
  • Community users of Department for Education sites, those attending a collocated library or hiring the school hall after hours
  • People attending to respond to an emergency or urgent maintenance task (fire or lift breakdown)

Who do I need provide proof of my vaccination to if requested?

Upon request, a person working in an education or early childhood setting must provide proof of their vaccination status to the operator of an education or early childhood service.

Who is the operator of an education or early childhood service?  

The operator of an educator or early childhood service means any individual, body corporate, association, partnership, entity, governing or responsible authority that manages or controls the service. 

I am currently on leave. When am I required to have the vaccine? Can this be done prior to my return to work?

If you are already on leave at the time vaccinations are due, you are still encouraged to get vaccinated as this in your best interest to protect yourself and your family. However, you are required to have had your vaccination(s) before you return to duty and will be required to provide evidence of your vaccination status prior to resuming duty.

What happens if I don’t get vaccinated?

If you do not provide evidence of having had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 11 December 2021 and do not have a medical exemption certificate, you cannot enter an early childhood or education setting to perform your duties, undertake work, or provide an education or care service.

COVID-19 vaccines

Which vaccine do I need to have?

People must be vaccinated against COVID-19 with a TGA approved vaccine, at this time, these include either AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna.

What if I have been vaccinated overseas?

Vaccines that are provisionally approved by the TGA are accepted. A list of approved vaccines is on the TGA website.

What do I do if I have medical concerns about getting vaccinated?

If you have medical concerns about being vaccinated, you need to speak to your doctor.

I am pregnant or planning pregnancy. What should I do?

SA Health information states that you can get vaccinated if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant. Vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease during pregnancy and helps to keep you and your unborn baby protected from the virus.

If you have medical concerns about being vaccinated, you need to speak to your doctor.

Medical exemptions

What happens if I cannot be vaccinated because of a medical reason? How can I get an exemption?

SA Health has advised that the following process is required to seek a medical exemption from being vaccinated against COVID-19:

  1. You will need to seek a medical certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner which states that you have a temporary or permanent medical reason for vaccination exemption in accordance with the guideline published by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
    Any such medical certificate will need to specify the nature of the exemption and the basis on which it applies.
  2. You will need to complete an SA Health Chief Public Health Officer Immunisation Exemption Application Form and submit this, along with your medical certificate signed by a legally qualified medical practitioner, to Health.NJNPExemptions@sa.gov.au.
  3. Your application for an exemption must be endorsed by the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO). If approved, the CPHO will provide a signed exemption letter that can be provided to your employer.

What happens if my application for a medical exemption is not approved?

Medical exemptions will only be accepted and endorsed by the CPHO if they are in accordance with the ATAGI published guidelines.

If your medical certificate is not in accordance with the ATAGI guidelines and is not endorsed by the CPHO, you are subject to the Direction and must meet the vaccination requirements.

I have applied to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial – can I get a COVID-19 vaccination exemption?

You will need a medical certificate or letter from a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that you are currently taking part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial and that receipt of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved vaccine would impact the validity of the trial, in order to apply for an exemption.

If a planned trial has not received regulatory approval, registering an interest to participate in a trial does not meet the requirements under the direction.

If you have received confirmation that you have met the eligibly requirements and been accepted into enrolment in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, you can apply for a medical exemption if you meet the below requirements:

  • You have clear documentation from the trial provider that you are currently taking part in a trial (including a commencement date and participant eligibility requirements), and that administration of a TGA vaccine would invalidate your participation.
  • You have another medical condition which meets the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation exemption criteria.

You must complete a SA Health Chief Public Health Officer Immunisation Exemption Application Form and submit appropriate documentation to SA Health for consideration for endorsement of exemption by the Chief Public Health Officer for the purposes of the requirements of the direction. The exemption will not be valid unless endorsed by the CPHO. Any granted exemption may be temporary.

What action can be taken against me if I do not meet the requirements under the direction?

For Department for Education employees, not complying with the requirements under the Emergency Management Direction in order to perform your duties may mean that the department is unable to continue to remunerate you and/or may affect your continuing employment with the department.

If you are not vaccinated, do not have an approved medical exemption, or you are not in the process of obtaining one, you will be contacted further in relation to your options and the implications for your employment.

For non-department employees and others captured by the Emergency Management Direction (see who does this apply to?) they will not be able to continue their engagement with the department or attend an education or early childhood setting unless they are vaccinated in accordance with the EM Direction, or have an approved medical exemption endorsed by the Chief Public Health Officer (or delegate) or provide evidence of being in the process of getting one.

Booking your vaccination

How can I book in a vaccination appointment?

To find a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, visit the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Many schools are also hosting Covid-19 pop-up vaccination hubs, visit the Department for Education website to see the list of schools.

What happens if I can’t get a vaccination appointment time before the required date?

You are encouraged to book a vaccination time as soon as possible or attend one of the walk-in clinics.

There is an adequate supply of vaccinations available, and many vaccination hubs and pharmacies (including in regional areas) offer walk in appointments after hours and on weekends.  Therefore, you should be able to get vaccinated within the timeframe.

How can I prove I have been vaccinated?

There are several options to receive your ‘proof of COVID-19 vaccination’:

  • Carry your paper immunisation certificate if provided at your vaccination appointment
  • Download your COVID-19 digital certificate via the Express Plus Medicare mobile app or your Medicare online account through myGov.
    • You can add your COVID-19 digital certificate to your Apple Wallet or Google Pay.
    • Instructions are available on the Services Australia website.
  • If you can’t get proof online, your vaccination provider may be able to print your immunisation history statement for you.
  • Call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 (Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm) and ask for your statement to be sent to you. It can take up to 14 days to arrive in the post.
  • If you’re not eligible for Medicare, call the Australian Immunisation Register and request your certificate be mailed to you or add your COVID-19 certificate to your digital wallet using the Individual Healthcare Identifiers service (IHI service) through myGov.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) Team

Emaileducation.covidcoordination [at] sa.gov.au