Australia cuts benefits for parents who don’t vaccinate
Come 2016, conscientious objectors to childhood vaccinations in Australia will no longer be able to participate in taxpayer-funded assistance programs, the country’s prime minister announced on Sunday.
The move by Prime Minister Tony Abbott takes the vaccination debate to a global scale following the largest spike in U.S. measles cases since the vaccination took hold and virtually wiped out the disease.
The policy, which Abbott refers to as “no jab, no pay,” is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2016. Under the new legislation, Australians who refuse to vaccinate will stop receiving several forms of child and family care benefits, currently set at thousands of dollars a year.
“Parents who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to child care without the fear that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness because of the conscientious objections of others,” Abbott said in a statement. “The new policy will tighten up the rules and reinforce the importance of immunization and protecting public health, especially for children.”
Parents who object to vaccinating on medial or religious grounds would continue to be able to receive the benefits, he said. The Australian government estimates that approximately 90 percent of Australian children 1 to 5 years old are currently vaccinated, and 97 percent of families receiving the benefit are already meeting the vaccination requirement.
However, an estimated 39,000 children under age 7 are not vaccinated due to their parents’ objections. This is an increase of more than 24,000 children over the past decade, Abbott said.
“The choice made by families not to immunize their children is not supported by public policy of medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments,” he said.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent rise in measles and whooping cough cases had been accredited to a rise in parents who refuse to vaccinate their children due to fear that contents in the vaccinations, such as preservatives, has led to a rise in the number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder.
“It’s unfortunate that fraudulent research by Andrew Wakefield continues to fuel the erroneous belief that there is a link between vaccinations and ASD,” Dr. Lisa Yeh, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says in a recent blog post. “This research, which has been discredited, was first published in 1998. However, repeated studies have failed to find any such link — even in attempts to replicate Wakefield’s research.”
Vaccinations are an important tool to maintaining the health of your child, she says, with illnesses like measles, mumps, diphtheria and rubella all posing possible life-threatening health risks to those who are unvaccinated.
“I would never recommend something I felt was dangerous or would cause ASD,” Dr. Yeh says. “Vaccinations are a necessary component of good health care.”
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