The ‘No jab, no pay’ policy will make no difference to the majority of Illawarra families, with the region boasting healthy immunisation rates.
However the small percentage of families who do not vaccinate their children, or keep their shots up to date, will now have to forfeit childcare or family tax benefits.
The Federal Government crackdown – designed to lift national immunisation rates – means exemptions will only be given for medical or religious reasons. Parents will no longer be able to register their conscientious objection.
The new policy – which came into effect on January 1 – has been welcomed by Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis who said it was an important step towards protecting the community against preventable diseases.
‘’Diseases, like polio, tetanus and diphtheria pose a serious threat, especially to children and other vulnerable people,’’ she said.
“Immunisation is the safest way of providing protection, so if people want to ignore that fact then they should not be supported by government policy.’’
Throsby MP Stephen Jones said he didn’t have much tolerance for ‘’anti-vaxxers’’.
‘’I think it’s unreasonable for people to expect to get the collective benefits such as welfare payments if they’re not contributing to the collective well-being by having their children immunised,’’ he said.
‘’Unless they’ve got good health reasons why they don’t, they’re shirking their responsibility to the community.’’
As of September 2015, the immunisation rate for children in the Illawarra Shoalhaven was higher than NSW and Australian averages.
For the 12 to 24-month-old age group, 94.7 per cent of children in the region were immunised; compared to the state average of 92.8 and national average of 93.
Keiraview Children’s Centre director Linda Logue said the policy may be an incentive for parents to get their kids immunised, or to keep their vaccinations up to date.
‘’The centre doesn’t discriminate against children of families who decide not to immunise their child,’’’ she said.
‘’However I’ve seen firsthand how sick children can get due to illnesses that they could have been immunised against – and a lot of illnesses which were starting to fade away are making a comeback.’’
Ms Logue said the centre charged $95.90 per day – in line with other centres – and many families relied on government assistance to reduce those costs. ‘’Families will now have to forgo their childcare rebates if they decide not to vaccinate.’’