As the anti-vaccination movement receives more and more pushback from those who trust scientific consensus, the country of Australia is taking a notable hardline, pushing its territories to bar unvaccinated children from the country’s childcare centers.
According to reports, about 5 percent of Australian children are unvaccinated, putting the country’s overall herd immunity at risk. Although vaccinations seem to be on the rise again, Prime Minister Ian Turnbull isn’t satisfied.
“We believe we can take it further than that—this has got to be a concerted national effort by all governments to ensure all our children can be vaccinated,” Turnbull said in a letter to country officials last week. “No jab, no pay, no play.”
The term “no pay” is referring to loss of child-related tax benefits.
In 1999, a mere 73.6 percent of Australian children between the ages of 24 and 27 months were fully immunized, the lowest level in 17 years. Much of this trend was fueled by the disingenuously named Australian Vaccination Network, which claimed (falsely) that vaccinations were linked to autism. Vaccination rates have recovered since then, hitting 92.2 percent in 2015, but that’s still not enough to stop the spread of infectious diseases.
In a recent poll of Australians, one in three said they were concerned about vaccinations, and around 10 percent said vaccinations cause autism—this despite no causal link being found to exist. In 2010, the science journal Lancetretracted a controversial 1998 study linking vaccines to autism, but the influence of this discredited paper has spiralled out of control.
Australia’s position is reportedly enjoying the support of most parents.
Last year, the Australian government stopped paying childcare and welfare benefits to anti-vaxxer parents in addition to doing away with the “conscientious objection” exemption from mandatory immunizations. In October of 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia urged prosecution for nurses and midwives who push anti-vaxxer views while working or on social media.
Speaking to Gizmodo, Emeritus Professor of Virology and immunologist Earl Brown said that although the recent steps are the right approach, immense challenges still remain.
“This approach will increase vaccination rates which will improve disease resistance of the Australian population, but the anti-vaccine lobby has many converts who will remain reluctant to vaccinate.”
Natasha Crowcroft, Chief of Applied Immunization Research at Public Health Ontario, says the measure is simply meant to protect the most vulnerable.
“If you’re going to put your kid in daycare, you expect them to be safe there,” Crowcroft told Gizmodo.
To comply, kids attending daycare need to be either immunized to attend daycare, or be least be placed in a “recognized catch-up schedule” that includes vaccinations for Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella.
“If they’re going to be put in harm’s way because another parent has unjustifiably not gotten their kids vaccinated, then that’s just not a reasonable situation to be in,” Crowcroft said.
Featured image via warrandyteroadelc.com.au. To follow Sky Palma on Facebook, click here.