Australia Will Withhold Government Benefits From Anti-Vaxx Families

Government benefits will cease to be paid out if parents refuse vaccines

Earlier this summer, the state of California made it mandatory for all public school children to be vaccinated if medically able. The decision didn’t come without controversy but Governor Jerry Brown approved the bill to protect the students in schools in his state.

At the time he said in a statement, "The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

This week, Australia announced its own sweeping law, opting to withhold government benefits from families that refuse to vaccinate their children for personal, non-medical reasons.

The No Jab, No Pay law which is poised to be passed after it was first proposed in April will mean families with no medical contraindication to vaccinate their children will lose up to $11,000 U.S. per child, per year, if they opt not to vaccinate. At the same time, the bill will also remove the category of “conscientious objector,” which is similar to the Canadian equivalent of “reasons of conscience” reason to refuse vaccines.

Parents who are advised not to vaccinate their children for medical reasons will be exempted from the new rules.

Surprisingly, at least to me, CBC has reported that public reaction to the bill has been overwhelmingly positive.

The new legislation comes in response to the ever-growing number of parents opting to not vaccinate their children for their own personal biases and reasons, the result of which is a growing number of incidences of diseases vaccines prevent against in Europe and in North America.  

“Australia has vaccination rates of over 90 percent for children aged one to five, but the government has said that more than 39,000 children aged under seven were not vaccinated because of parental objections,” Yahoo! reported, adding that there has been a whopping increase of 24,000 unvaccinated children in Australia over the past decade alone.

Furthermore, government data shows the number of children who have recorded as abstaining from vaccines for non-medical reasons has risen from 0.23 percent in 1999 to 1.77 percent last year.

In the United States and even here in Canada, reaction to such public intervention into what many consider to be their private lives would likely be met with significant protests and dissonance. In Australia, the government is standing firm that they need not provide funding to families who don’t do their part to keep public health a priority.

“The choice made by some families not to vaccinate their children is not supported by public policy or medical research, nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of family payments," Scott Morrison, Australian Social Services Minister told Parliament.

It will be interesting to see how many families with "moral" objections change their tune when thousands of dollars are at risk. Governments can’t and won’t tell people they have to vaccinate their children against their wishes. But they can tell families that will be precluded from receiving benefits from the government that will be footing the bill of any fallout from the rising number of non-immunized people. The health risks are real. It’s about time a federal government took a stand that will hopefully begin to reverse the upward trend in people opting out of vaccinations. 

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