The Australian government is expected to soon pass a law that will penalize parents who do not have their children vaccinated unless there is a medical reason not to. The law will withhold child care and other government payments from families that fail to immunize their children.
The "No Jab, No Pay Bill" that was introduced to the Australian Parliament would remove the category of "conscientious objector." This category allowed parents who did not want to have their children vaccinated to remain eligible for full government benefits despite not immunizing their children.
"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," Social Services Minister Scott Morrison told the Australian Parliament.
Families could lose up to 15,000 Australian dollars ($11,000 in United States dollars) per child per year in tax and child care benefits starting on Jan. 1, 2016, if their children have not been vaccinated.
The only allowed exemptions to vaccination will be for valid medical reasons. This exemption would include any child who has had an allergic reaction to any component in a vaccine.
The legislation is likely to be passed by Parliament without any amendments. The public reaction in Australia to the proposed change has been overwhelmingly positive.
Ninety seven percent of Australian families that claim tax benefits for their children have vaccinated those children. However, the number of children under age 7 years old who have not been vaccinated because their parents requested conscientious objector status has increased by more than 61% over the past 10 years to 39,000, the government said.
Vaccines work best when most members of a community are vaccinated - the more people who are vaccinated, the lower the possible risk of anyone's exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases. This effect is referred to as herd immunity.