Life on the land in Australia

‘No jab, no pay says government’: thousands immunise children to avoid family payment cuts

Government’s policy sees 5,700 immunise children and another 148,000 update vaccinations to avoid cuts of up to $15,000 a year

Thousands of children have been vaccinated for the first time or had their immunisations updated to avoid having family welfare payments withheld. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP

The federal government’s ‘no jab, no pay’ policy has prompted thousands of parents who had previously refused to immunise their babies to get them vaccinated.

Social services minister Christian Porter says more than 5,700 have secured their child care payments by having their children immunised since the campaign started in January.

Under the policy, family payments of up to $15,000 a year can be withheld from parents who don’t immunise their children. Families receiving child care benefit and the child care rebate were given until March this year to get immunisations up to date or miss out on payments.

Social services minister Christian Porter told the ABC that while it was not ideal to threaten to withhold family welfare payments, it was clear the policy was working.

“We were facing a situation where the medical community were telling us that ‘herd immunity rates’, as they call it, need to be 95%, and we were just dropping steadily below that,” Porter said.

“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 immunisations up for things like whooping cough and polio, so that kids are protected in childcare.”

More than 148,000 children who were not up-to-date with their immunisations are also now meeting the requirements.

“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,” Porter said.

“Of course, that was a matter of major concern to the overwhelming majority of parents who aren’t vaccination objectors and just want their kids to be safe.”

In 2015 the government announced that the only religious group that was able to claim religious exemptions for vaccinations, Christian Scientists, would no longer be able to do so.

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Henry Sapiecha

July 31st, 2016

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