Australia is coming down hard on parents who won’t vaccinate and maybe it’s time the United States does the same.
In a very bold move, Australia is implementing a new policy early this year where they will withhold benefits from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. The benefits include things like childcare rebates, and the program enforcing the policy is being referred to as “No Jab, No Pay.” It sounds pretty fair. If a parent refuses to participate in civilized society by helping to keep everyone safe from preventable diseases, the government can refuse to help them too.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the plan to withhold benefits from parents who don’t vaccinate their kids last year and it’s just now about to go into effect. Abbott told ABC News, “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.”
This isn’t the first time Australia has shown what it thinks of parents who don’t believe in vaccinating. In 2014, they stopped the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network from qualifying as a charity due to their promoting misinformation about the effects of vaccines.
Australia’s rate for outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases is far lower than North America’s with the 2014 figure standing at 2,614. The rate in North America for that same year was 58,051. That’s up from only 923 in 2008, so parents refusing to vaccinate their children is having a clear and frightening effect on the spread of vaccine preventable illnesses.
2015 saw the United States’ first measles death in 12 years. These are the kinds of stories we will keep hearing about if parents continue to opt out of vaccinating their children. It’s a public health issue, not a personal choice, and if parents want their families to participate in public life, they have to go along with the social contract of allowing their children to be vaccinated. For the benefit of society as a whole.
After all, vaccines are only effective if herd immunity is achieved and that means a certain percentage of the population has to be up-to-date on their shots. This allows for the small number who are physically unable to be immunized including infants too young for certain vaccines, immuno-compromised patients with diseases such as cancer and people who are allergic to ingredients in a vaccine. That means that just about everyone else needs to do it. That includes the children of parents with “beliefs” exemptions. Because those of us who do vaccinate our kids believe everyone else should have to do it as well, health issues notwithstanding.
It would make sense for no public schools to allow unvaccinated children to attend. California, West Virginia and Mississippi have all repealed laws that previously allowed belief-based exemptions for skipping vaccines and hopefully, other states will follow suit. In order for all children to be safe, we all need to follow the rules. After California’s measles outbreak in 2014, they were smart to take action. Hopefully, other states will issue similar directives so 2016 isn’t another year of rising rates of previously eradicated diseases.