‘No Jab, No Play’: How Australia Is Handling the Vaccination Debate – New York Times

Laws in other Australian states give child care centers the right to turn away unvaccinated children, either permanently, or during periods of outbreak. In the case of all of these restrictions, conscientious objection would no longer be seen as a valid excuse.

South Australia’s move further shores up Australia’s increasingly strict enforcement of vaccinations and continues the government’s efforts to dispel the country’s small but present anti-vaccination mood. In 2016, with a global vaccination debate swelling, the Australian federal government introduced another variation, this one called “no jab, no pay,” under which parents of unvaccinated children lose government benefits and welfare rebates — costing them up to 15,000 Australian dollars in some cases. That policy, too, didn’t allow for nonmedical exemptions.

Of course, a minority have described the punitive measures as harsh or authoritarian, but the data is in the government’s favor.

The financial incentives have encouraged families to comply with the vaccination requirements. From December 2015 to March 2017, coinciding with the policy’s introduction, the immunization rate for 1-year-olds increased around one percentage point, to 93.6 percent. However, some 134,372 children still weren’t caught up in their vaccinations — and their parents had their government benefits reduced.

“The Australian government believes there is no excuse for parents who, without a valid medical reason, choose not to immunize their children,” the Department of Health wrote in a May news release.

Though legislation to bar the unvaccinated from child care centers is a state matter in Australia, the federal government has made clear that it wants similar legislation passed across the country.

“We must give parents the confidence that their children will be safe when they attend child care and preschool,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in March.

Though several states and countries around the world require vaccination for school-aged children, Australia’s policy of withholding child care benefits was the first such action of its kind in the world.

The Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, an advocacy group, has held rallies against both “no jab, no play” and “no jab, no pay” policies.

“It is inconceivable that we are now in a position where the government is voting to discriminate against families for making a free and legal decision,” the group wrote on its website.

A.V.N. on Sunday began hosting screenings of the American documentary “Vaxxed” — a 2016 film broadly seen as anti-vaccination. The group did not reveal the locations of the screenings to ticket-holders until two hours before they were scheduled to begin along the country’s east coast — presumably over concerns about confrontations at the events.

The central focus of the film — which was unceremoniously yanked from the Tribeca Film Festival — is the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and its widely debunked link to autism.

Dr. Michael Gannon, the president of the Australian Medical Association, acknowledged the remote risks of vaccination but explained how the benefits dwarfed them.

“Take the example of measles,” Dr. Gannon said. “You are 10,000 times more likely to be brain damaged by measles than you are by its vaccination.”

Dr. Gannon has described choosing not to vaccinate children as “a form of child abuse.”

Like the Australian government, medical bodies point to a 95 percent immunization rate as the ideal for “herd immunity” — a level of community vaccination that quells major disease outbreaks.

“It’s not the case that we can rest on our laurels,” Dr. Gannon said. “Even a 1 or 2 or 3 percent drop in the vaccination rate can be enough to impair the immunity of the herd.”


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