Protecting our society from diseases is a serious issue – and it can’t be done without vaccinating our children. This is why the Australian Government has introduced the “No Jab, No Pay” rules on child vaccinations.
The 2016 “No jab, No Pay” policy follows hot on the heels of the similarly named ‘No Jab, No Play’ policies operating in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Under the ‘No Jab, No Play’ legislation, before enrolling a child, early childhood services must first obtain evidence that the child is:
- fully immunised for their age; OR
- on a vaccination catch-up program; OR
- unable to be fully immunised for medical reasons.
‘Conscientious objection’ is not an exemption under the ‘No Jab, No Play’ legislation.
Effectively, ‘No Jab No Play’ means parents of unvaccinated children can no longer utilise essential early childhood services. In turn, ‘No Jab, No Pay’ targets parents financially for not immunising their children. This twin-pronged policy approach is proving to be very effective and is starting to close the gap on unvaccinated children.
Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement and child care subsidies
Any parent wishing to receive government subsidies must adhere to the government’s new child immunisation rules and since the rules have come into effect on January 1, 2016, our health clinics and councils have been exceedingly busy keeping up with increasing vaccine demands.
Many parents have been rushing to the doctor to get their children up-to-date with their vaccine schedules for fear of missing out on the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement and child care subsidies.
As the policy has motivated many parents with unvaccinated children who were previously ‘sitting on the fence’, doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed as they try to implement appropriate catch-up schedules for children who have never been vaccinated. Fortunately, even well-known anti-vaccination hotspots in Australia such as towns on the north coast of New South Wales are reporting at least five families a week visiting local surgeries in an attempt to bring their schedules up-to-date.
Consequently, the number of immunisations in Australia is increasing. A recent report indicates that an additional 5,700 children have been immunised since the policy was implemented, representing an increase in the immunisation rate for one to five-year-olds from 90 to 93 per cent.
Is everyone rushing to get their children vaccinated? No. Some parents are still abstaining and it is thought that this campaign will not have an effect on the staunch anti-vaccine parents that refuse the concept of vaccination, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
Child immunisation is still not an issue to be taken lightly. For the country to reach a point of effective immunity, 95% of children must be immunised. Yet recent data reveals that in certain pockets of the country – for example, Mullumbimby, with one of the lowest immunisation rates in the country – levels are much lower. According to data released from 2014 to 2015, before this new policy was introduced, certain areas of the country held percentages way too low to prevent the spread of diseases.
The importance of herd immunity
It is estimated that a staggering 9% of children, and more in some areas, aren’t immunised, which is way below the level required for successful “herd immunity”. Herd immunity, also known as community immunity or social immunity, describes the form of indirect protection from infectious diseases that occur when a large percentage of the population has become immune to a disease, which then limits the chance of others, unable to be immunised, from contracting the disease. Child immunisation is a critical part of ensuring herd immunity.
Herd immunity is vital for the protection of our community and is another reason those of us who can be immunised should be immunised. For example, young babies, the elderly, and those immunocompromised by chemotherapy and other treatments, all rely on the herd immunity of others to reduce the chance of catching devastating infectious diseases.
So why do some people not immunise their children?
There are various reasons cited for not vaccinating children: some children remain unvaccinated due to barriers such as isolation, social exclusion or poverty. Other children are not vaccinated because their parents actively reject vaccines due to spiritual reasons, philosophical reasons or through misinformation spread on the Internet. See our earlier blog post: Vaccinations: Let’s get things straight. With facts! And Science! for more information on anti-vaxxers.
Child immunisation: the rules
- As of the first of January 2016, all children under the age of 20 must stay up-to-date with all necessary immunisations, on a catch-up schedules or have a valid exemption in place to receive the Family Tax Benefit (FTP) Part A payment, Child Care Rebate (CCR) or the Child Care Benefit (CCB).
- Vaccination objections based on religious, personal or philosophical beliefs will no longer be a valid form of exemption.
- Centrelink will be informed of children that do not meet immunisation requirements and will encourage parents to speak to their family doctor about vaccination arrangements.
- Catch up arrangements for children under the age of 10 will be free while all children under the age of 10 to 19 receiving family assistance payments will also receive free catch-ups up until 31 December 2017.
- Children with medical issues or natural immunity from certain diseases will continue to be exempt from the current immunisation requirements.
For frequently asked questions about childhood vaccinations in Australia, visit this site:
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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