To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question behind a heated debate among parents across the globe. In order to motivate those opposed, also known as anti-vaxxers, this country is fining parents $40 a month for not vaccinating their kids. Experts are divided as to whether or not the imposition, known as "no jab, no pay," is in the best interest of the Australian people.
As of this week, Australians who do not vaccinate their children will be charged 28 Australian dollars, the equivalent of $20 USD, twice a month for each of their children that has not been vaccinated, according to Fatherly. The country's Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan announced the fee, stating that families could lose as much as 737 Australian dollars, or $547.36, per child throughout the year, according to The Independent. The fee is replacing the past policy that simply withheld end-of-the-year benefits from antivaxxing families and is meant to remind parents throughout the year what their beliefs are costing them — no pun intended.
Tehan explained in his statement that the fines are in part due to a discovery by the Australian Parliament that the number of children remaining unvaccinated due to parental objection grew from 0.23 percent in December 1999 to 1.77 percent in December 2014, according to Fatherly. He went on to explain that the policy change was in the best interest of the children. "Immunization is the safest way to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases," he said. "Parents who don’t immunize their children are putting their own kids at risk as well as the children of other people."
It's not all fees, though. Dr. Tony Bartone, vice president of the Australian Medical Association told CNN that there are also benefits:
Firstly, patients in lower earning scales get some additional family tax rebates if they have kept their child up-to-date with their various vaccinations.
Like the U.S., Australia also requires children to be vaccinated before they can enroll into child-care centers and preschools, Bartone said. The new policy seems to be working, too. Australia's Department of Social Services reported that since "no jab, no pay" was put into action in January 2016, more than 210,000 families have vaccinated their children to meet the requirements.
Despite the fees and requirements, Bartone told CNN that "there is a small proportion, roughly one to two percent, which refuse still to vaccinate." This is often due to misleading information coming from website and activist groups. But when numbers of unvaccinated people increase in particular locations, herd immunity fails. "This will/could allow pockets where the infection can grab a foot hold and even lead to small regional epidemics," Bartone told CNN.
But not everyone is in favor of the policy. The Guardian reported that some health care professionals worry that withholding money from the antivaxxers will only serve to further alienate them. Professor Peter McIntyre, a pediatrician with the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance told The Guardian that unintended consequences of the policy could hurt children:
Not being able to attend school or childcare, and a child missing out on education opportunities and having their exposure to socialization restricted because of the parent’s decision, is probably something we don’t want to see happen. It could be a stunning success in terms of increasing vaccination rates, but any undesired consequences must be monitored as well.
While some believe that the decision to vaccinate children or not should be up to parents and parents alone, it is clear that the Australian government is cracking down on the "conscientious objectors" and aiming to get their vaccination numbers up.