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Benefits tied to immunisation

Good news: the Australian government is now explicitly tying family tax benefits to whether children are immunised.

Parents who do not have their children fully immunised will be stripped of family tax benefits under a scheme announced by the Federal Government.

The Government says 11 per cent of five-year-olds are not immunised and has announced a shake-up of the system which will take effect from July 1 next year.

Under the changes, families who refuse vaccinations face losing up to $2,100 per child in benefits.

Children will need to have more vaccines, and younger.

Children will for the first time be required to receive vaccines for meningococcal C, pneumococcal and varicella (chicken pox).

A combination vaccine will replace individual doses of vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox) – which means children will be immunised against measles, mumps and rubella earlier, at 18 months instead of the current four years of age.

This will be great, as long as there are no easy exemptions to render the law toothless. Oh, wait.

What exemptions will be available for the new immunisation conditions linked to the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement?

While the Government considers that immunisation is an important health measure for children and families, existing exemptions will continue to be available.

A child may have a temporary or permanent exemption if a recognised immunisation provider determines that receiving the vaccine is medically contraindicated. A child may also receive an exemption from the immunisation requirements if a recognised immunisation provider indicates that the parent has a conscientious objection to immunising their child.

This needs to be fixed. Even so, this might push a few more parents to immunise.

5 Comments

  1. It might catch up with some parents who just "don't get around to it" but it's also given Meryl Dorey renewed vigour. She has at least two stints on ABC Radio this week.

    It's made the AVN relevant again and it looks like little more than a cost-cutting exercise (there's less money on offer than there was before) in a week where the Baby Bonus has also been dumped and the Prime Minister has been granted a $90,000 a year pay rise.

  2. The AVN is going to push back on any worthy vaccination policy. I don't see how we can make them totally irrelevant unless we convince clueless journalists to stop booking them.

  3. I accept that but I don't accept that this measure was put in place purely to promote immunisation. If it was then, as you suggest, conscientious objection would surely have been overhauled.

  4. You know what — I'll bet it's just timid governmental incrementalism. Someone wants to move things in the right direction, but they don't want to (or can't) change too much because of institutional calcification. So they change somethings, but not in a way that would help.

    I wonder if some public outcry from skeptics could help grease those wheels.

  5. I'm cyncial.

    I'd be less cynical if the change had involved a promotion of the existing immunisation allowance with public questioning/debate over CO.

    I'd be less cynical if the change had been preceded by a public immunisation campaign.

    I'd be less cynical if there was money put aside for adults around the country to access free boosters (currently it seems it's a state-by-state matter).

    I'd also be less cynical if the announcement hadn't come when the government was desperate to cut welfare in an effort to salvage the promised budget surplus.

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