Australia to deny wel­fare to ‘anti-vax’ par­ents

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott said Sun­day his na­tion will adopt a “no jab, no pay” pol­icy to block par­ents who refuse to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren from ac­cess­ing some gov­ern­ment wel­fare.

The pol­icy change comes amid a de­bate over im­mu­niza­tion for chil­dren, with some par­ents be­liev­ing vac­cines against deadly dis­eases are danger­ous.

The anti-vac­ci­na­tion move­ment has co­in­cided with the resur­gence of measles, a pre­ventable dis­ease, in some Euro­pean coun­tries as well as in parts of the United States.

“It’s es­sen­tially a ‘no jab, no pay’ pol­icy from this gov­ern­ment,” Ab­bott told re­porters in Syd­ney.

“It’s a very im­por­tant public health an­nounce­ment. It’s a very im­por­tant mea­sure to keep our chil­dren and our fam­i­lies as safe as pos­si­ble.”

Un­der cur­rent Aus­tralian laws, par­ents who have “con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tions” about im­mu­niza­tion can claim child­care and wel­fare pay­ments.

If the mea­sures are passed those par­ents would be de­nied the pay­ments — which in­clude child­care re­bates, benefits and fam­ily tax ben­e­fit sup­ple­ments — re­port­edly miss­ing out on up to AU$15,000 (US$11,500) per child an­nu­ally.

Par­ents un­will­ing to vac­ci­nate the chil­dren on med­i­cal or re­li­gious grounds will still be al­lowed to tap into the benefits, although un­der tighter el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments.

Min­is­ter for So­cial Ser­vices Scott Mor­ri­son said there were no main­stream re­li­gions that had reg­is­tered vac­ci­na­tion ob­jec­tions with the gov­ern­ment.

The new mea­sures have to be passed by Par­lia­ment but are sup­ported by the La­bor op­po­si­tion. They are set to come into force at the start of 2016.

Australia has vac­ci­na­tion rates of over 90 per­cent for chil­dren aged one to five years.

But the gov­ern­ment said more than 39,000 chil­dren aged un­der seven were not vac­ci­nated be­cause their par­ents’ ob­jec­tions — an in­crease of more than 24,000 chil- dren over the past decade.

Ab­bott said his gov­ern­ment was “ex­tremely con­cerned” about the risks such ac­tions posed to the rest of the pop­u­la­tion.

“The choice made by fam­i­lies not to im­mu­nize their chil­dren is not sup­ported by public pol­icy or med­i­cal re­search nor should such ac­tion be sup­ported by tax­pay­ers in the form of child care pay­ments,” the Aus­tralian leader added in a joint state­ment with Mor­ri­son.

Many peo­ple who do not vac­ci­nate their chil­dren say they fear a triple vac­cine for measles, mumps and rubella is re­spon­si­ble for in­creas­ing cases of autism — a the­ory re­peat­edly dis­proven by var­i­ous stud­ies.

The con­tro­versy dates back to the pub­li­ca­tion of a now de­bunked ar­ti­cle in the Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal in 1998.

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