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.