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.”