Beginning in 2016, Australian parents will lose child benefits if they don’t vaccinate their children.
Parents will not be able to refuse to vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons, including religious objections, if they want to keep their government-provided benefits.
Exceptions will be made for medical reasons, such as for children with compromised immune systems who might be harmed by vaccinations, reports Josh L. Davis of IFL Science.
Benefits affected by the new law include childcare benefits, rebates, and Family Tax Benefit A end-of-year supplements. These could total $15,000 Australian dollars per year.
Those who feel that they have been wrongfully denied their benefits will have at least two weeks to prove that their children have been vaccinated.
This bill is the latest move in a worldwide effort to vaccinate all eligible children despite objections from parents. Outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough have occurred in recent years.
Australia’s rate of childhood immunization is over 90%, but “conscientious objectors” have increased over the past decade from .2% to 1.8% of children, writes Jenn Gidman of Newser.
The bill, which has been nicknamed “no jab, no pay,” recently passed the Senate with support from the Coalition, Labor, and the Greens.
ABC News quoted Alison Gaylard of the Northern Rivers Vaccination Support Network:
There is going to be a group of people that will not change their minds at all, that has always been the case. But people that are coming to that part of their life where they’re going to have to address vaccinating their children, it’s going to encourage them to realize that it’s an important thing to do. Some people will do it because there is a financial incentive involved.
When I first heard about it, I was quite amazed at how stringent the government was [in] taking action on it. But they’re also going to be incorporating education and awareness campaigns, and they’re looking at incorporating a reminder system. I can only see it as a good thing.
Critics of the new law have pointed out that this move will disproportionately affect lower-income families and those without access to healthcare, and not do much to combat the problem of those who refuse on philosophical reasons.
While the bill passed through the Senate without much opposition, some legislators have suggested minor changes to the policy.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon suggested that Australia imitate Canada’s system of compensating those affected negatively by vaccinations, reports the AAP.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale asked that the changes be moved to 2018 instead of 2016 so that data systems could catch up and no one would wrongfully lose their benefits.