Australia's bold new strategy to combat anti-vaxxers: Withhold government benefits

"The government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community"

Published April 13, 2015 6:49PM (EDT)

       (<a href=''>sergei telegin</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(sergei telegin via Shutterstock)

On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a harsh new policy targeting anti-vaxxers: as of January 1, 2016, parents who opt out of vaccinating their children will be denied childcare-related government benefits. The measure, which could deprive families of up to $11,500 in government funds, still needs to be approved by Parliament before it can take effect.

"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.

NPR's Stuart Cohen reports that around 90 percent of Australian children are properly immunized, but almost 40,000 parents have claimed objections, which can be religious, medical, or even philosophical in nature.

The Sydney Morning Herald's Stephanie Peatling reports:

Families claiming the end of year supplement for family tax benefits will also have to have their children vaccinated at all ages from the start of next year before receiving the payment...

People who have medical grounds for not vaccinating will continue to receive government payments.

But people with religious reasons will have their eligibility for government payments tightened.

They will only continue to receive childcare and family tax payments if they are affiliated with a religious group whose governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the federal government.

"The government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community," Abbott continued. "The choice made by families not to immunize their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments."

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Anti-vaxx Assistance Australia Childcare Children Government Government Assistance Healthcare Policy Vaccines