Australia to boost child vac­ci­na­tion with US$20 mil.

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Australia Sun­day un­veiled a AU$26 mil­lion (NT$628 mil­lion; US$20 mil­lion) pack­age to in­crease child vac­ci­na­tion rates, as it re­moved a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion al­low­ing par­ents un­will­ing to im­mu­nize their chil­dren to claim some gov­ern­ment wel­fare.

The mea­sures re­flect the gov­ern­ment’s public health con­cerns amid a de­bate over im­mu­niza­tion for chil­dren, with some par­ents be­liev­ing that vac- cines against deadly dis­eases are them­selves danger­ous.

Health Min­is­ter Sus­san Ley said the new mea­sures, which will be part of the May 12 fed­eral bud­get, in­cluded the estab­lish­ment of a na­tional school vac­ci­na­tion reg­is­ter and fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for doc­tors to pur­sue chil­dren two months over­due for their im­mu­niza­tions.

An in­for­ma­tion cam­paign in­volv­ing doc­tors will also be rolled out to ed­u­cate par­ents, she said.

“We need to make sure that the in­for­ma­tion is avail­able through gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers to ex­plain to those par­ents who are hes­i­tant, who are get­ting com­plex and com­pli­cated in­for­ma­tion and, quite hon­estly, hear­ing some crack­pot ideas about what hap­pens if you vac­ci­nate chil­dren,” Ley told re­porters.

“In fact, what hap­pens is your chil­dren main­tain im­mu­nity from dis­eases that can ei­ther kill or give life­time dif­fi­cul­ties.”

Ley said the pack­age was part of a “car­rot and stick” ap­proach to im­mu­niza­tion. The gov­ern­ment last Sun­day said it would block par­ents who refuse to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren from ac­cess­ing some gov­ern­ment wel­fare.

So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son tough­ened the re­stric­tions Sun­day, re­mov­ing the re­li­gious ex­emp­tion from the “no jab, no pay” pol­icy.

This means that only par­ents un­will­ing to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren on med­i­cal grounds will still be al- lowed to re­ceive the pay­ments.

Mor­ri­son said that af­ter speak­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Church of Christ, Sci­en­tist, the one re­li­gious group that held an ex­emp­tion, he had re­moved it.

“Hav­ing been in­formed the reli­gion is not ad­vis­ing mem­bers to avoid vac­ci­nat­ing their chil­dren... the gov­ern­ment no longer sees that the ex­emp­tion is cur­rent,” Mor­ri­son said in a state­ment.

“Hav­ing re­solved this out­stand­ing mat­ter the gov­ern­ment will not be re­ceiv­ing nor au­tho­riz­ing any fur­ther vac­ci­na­tion ex­emp­tion ap­pli­ca­tions from re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

Australia has vac­ci­na­tion rates of more than 90 per­cent for chil­dren aged one to five.

At least 166,000 chil­dren were last year recorded as be­ing over­due for their vac­ci­na­tions for more than two months, Ley said.

More than 39,000 chil­dren aged un­der seven were not vac­ci­nated be­cause of their par­ents’ ob­jec­tions, an in­crease of more than 24,000 chil­dren over the past decade, the gov­ern­ment added.

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.

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 dis­proved by var­i­ous stud­ies.

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