It seems that they’re about to, and it’s making news across the world.
From Canada to India, myriad countries are weighing in on Australia’s controversial new laws that will withhold childcare and other government payments from families who fail to immunise their children.
The “No Jab, No Pay Bill” introduced to Parliament is set to remove a category of ‘conscientious objector’, which had previously allowed parents to continue to receive full government benefits, despite not immunising their children.
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“The choice made by some families not to vaccinate their children is not supported by public policy or medical research, nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of family payments,” Scott Morrison, Social Services Minister, told Parliament.
As a result, families stand to lose up to $15,000 per child per year from January 1 next year, unless their children are vaccinated, or they have valid medical reasons permitting their exemption.
Currently, around 97 per cent of Australian families that claim tax benefits for their offspring are vaccinated, according to reports. However, the government is concerned that the number of children under seven years of age who are not vaccinated because their parents are objectors, has increased by more than 24,000 over the past decade to 39,000.
I’m slightly mixed on this issue. On the one hand, I believe that parents should be allowed to make decisions about their child’s health without government intervention forcing their hand.
That said, it frustrates me that parents who choose not to vaccinate effectively get the benefits of the rest of us choosing to do so. If half of the population suddenly decided to forgo immunisations, we would be royally screwed.
From personal experience, I have also been in hospital with a gravely ill newborn. That experience certainly fortified my position as being pro-vaccination. She was only three weeks old, but if she had been that sick and I could have prevented it by vaccinating but chose not to, I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself.
But back to the issue at hand: Should parents who don’t vaccinate lose childcare payments?
Honestly, I think there are many parents who are swayed by Dr Google and scary statistics found online. This legislation is going to force people to seriously investigate their beliefs, to decide whether they feel strongly enough about their anti-vax stance to pay the financial price.
Also, vaccination decisions impacts EVERYONE. We rely on a herd mentality to keep these diseases under control and currently, some communities in Australia are falling below 90 per cent immunisation rates; in parts of the Northern Rivers region, it is between 50 and 70 per cent.
While grappling with statistics like these, did the government really have much choice?
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