As of July 1, parents who don’t vaccinate their children will face bi-weekly fines by losing part of their support payments.
As the debate around vaccination continues to stir in the U.S., Australia has taken bold action to encourage its citizens to make sure kids get their shots. Two years ago, the country's federal parliament passed a "no jab, no pay" policy, which meant that parents whose children were not up to date with vaccinations would lose an end of year payment to their family tax benefit, worth A$737, according to The Independent.
However, the as of July 1, parents will lose A$28—which is about $21—every two weeks from their tax benefits for each child not up to date with their immunizations.
The original policy seemed to be working: Since 2016, when it was enacted, 246,000 more children were vaccinated, and the immunization rate in the country hit 92.2 percent. The policy only takes into consideration vaccines recommended for children up to 4 years old.
By strengthening the policy and creating this bi-monthly, "constant reminder" slap on the wrist for families whose kids aren't up to date, the Australian government hopes to crack down even further on the "anti-vaxxer" movement after the percentage of children under seven with a “conscientious objection” to immunization rose from 0.23 per cent in December 1999 to 1.77 per cent in December 2014, according to Australia’s parliament.
“Immunization is the safest way to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan said in a statement. “Parents who don’t immunize their children are putting their own kids at risk as well as the children of other people.”
The government's bold move isn't dissuading some families from dodging the shots. "Children with certain medical issues or natural immunity" can be exempt, according to News.com.au. And the site reports that in Queensland, parents who are against vaccination are organizing their own group childcare and homeschooling while taking their children to "health practitioners within the anti-vaccine networks around Australia and ‘anti-vaccination-friendly’ doctors in the community."
It's clear the clash between those who oppose vaccination, those who support it, governments, and health care professionals won't end anytime soon. In the meantime, the CDC notes that vaccines given to infants and young children over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. Yet, more than three million people—1.5 of them kids under 5—die from vaccine-preventable diseases every single year.
That said, Australia's strong stance is sure to be lauded by parents who would love similar legislation passed here, so we could do more to protect U.S. kids, too.