In a strong message to anti-vaxxers, the Australian government has announced parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will no longer be eligible for government-sponsored welfare payments or childcare rebates. NPR reports that Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was “closing a loophole” that would stop payments of 15,000 Australian dollars ($11,500 USD) for parents who skip shots.
Similar to the United States, the number of “conscientious objectors” who claim non-medical reasons for not vaccinating has risen in recent years. Currently, 90% of Australian children are vaccinated against such illnesses as measles, mumps and rubella. About 40,000 children are now exempt, which is as easy as having a doctor sign a one-page form claiming a personal, philosophical, religious or medical objection.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that childcare and medical organizations stand behind the government’s decision.
Prime Minister Abbott stated:
“Parents who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to childcare without the fear that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness because of the conscientious objections of others,” Abbott said. “The Government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community.”
READ MORE: An Open Letter to Anti-Vaccination Celebrities: Shut Up. Now.