Since the Australian government launched its ‘No jab no pay’ campaign on 1 January 2016, thousands of children have been vaccinated for the first time, as parents who previously refused to immunize their babies faced family payment cuts of up to $15,000 a year.
In just seven months, 5,738 extra children have now been vaccinated, and another 148,000 who were not up-to-date with their immunizations have had their booster shots.
According to the report, since the policy was introduced in January, the immunization rate for one- and five-year-olds has now reached 93 percent for the first time ever – up from around 90 percent.
“Vaccination rates had fallen to such a historically low level, that we were seeing the re-emergence of diseases that we had been free of for years,” Social Services Minister Christian Porter told Matthew Doran at ABC News.
“We were facing a situation where the medical community were telling us that ‘herd immunity rates’, as they call it, need to be 95 percent, and we were just dropping steadily below that.”
The ‘No jab no pay’ policy is pretty simple – you can “conscientiously object” to immunizing your kid based on philosophical, religious, or “I read things on the Internet” reasons, but doing so means the government can withhold family payments worth up to $15,000 every year until you do.
According to The Guardian, last year, the government announced that the only religious group that was eligible for religious exemptions, the Christian Scientists, would no longer be able to do so.
Families receiving the government’s Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) were given until March this year to get their kids’ immunizations up to date to ensure that their payments would continue.
The policy also stated that no child would be admitted to child care, pre-school, or kindergarten without having been vaccinated.
“It means that all parents can be absolutely certain and secure now that when their kids are going into childcare, that the government’s enacted a policy that’s lifted the immunizations up for things like whooping cough and polio, so that kids are protected in childcare,” Porter told the ABC.
Yep, it might sound harsh to cut off family payments to those in need, but putting children at risk for absolutely no reason is pretty damn despicable. Let’s hope the numbers are even more impressive in another six months’ time, and that we can finally put an end to anti-vax sentiment in our country.
Rest of the world, take note.