Kevin Rudd will today unveil new measures to lift childhood immunisation rates by directly linking a key family payment to vaccinations.
The Prime Minister will announce that if re-elected all children will have to be fully immunised in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A end-of-year supplement.
Parents who register as “conscientious objectors” will no longer be eligible to receive the payment. Exemptions will apply on medical and religious grounds only.
“The science cannot be disputed,” Mr Rudd said. “Immunisation is the safest and most effective way for parents to protect their children from disease, and one of the most important public health measures at our disposal.”
A recent report by the National Health Performance Authority confirmed that Australia’s national rates of childhood immunisation were at or around 90 per cent.
But the report also found there was a need to increase rates, particularly in regions where coverage was below the national average.
In one Medicare Local catchment area, 3600 children were not fully immunised across the key age groups of one, two and five years of age.
The existence of unimmunised children has given rise to concerns that children in some communities are at risk of contracting diseases such as measles and whooping cough, and putting others at risk, too.
The government announced its first crackdown on immunisation last year, mandating that children needed to have received the necessary vaccinations in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.
The supplement is worth $726 per child each year. Under the crackdown it is only paid once a child is fully immunised at one, two and five years of age.
The government argues this provides families with an incentive of more than $2100 to ensure their children are fully immunised.
However until now, exemptions for parents who register as “conscientious objectors” to immunisation have always applied.—————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Author: Sid Maher