Despite being home to a controversial, pseudoskeptical anti-vaccination group that even went as far as comparing immunization with rape, Australia is continuing to demonstrate its laudable stance on vaccination. Alongside vetoing religious and personal exemptions for childhood vaccinations and introducing a strict “no jab, no pay” policy whereby welfare will be stripped with refusal to vaccinate, a new set of laws targeting preschoolers has just been announced.
Coming into play on January 1 2016, the State Government reforms will ban children in Victoria from attending childcare or kindergarten unless they are fully up to date with their immunization schedule, ABC News reports. The new laws also offer a crackdown on those who claim conscientious objection, as only those with a validated medical reason will be granted exemption.
“The science on this issue is really clear. Vaccinations save lives,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Sunday. “What we don’t accept is those who go around myth-making about the risks of vaccination.”
While Australia boasts an estimated immunization coverage of about 92%, the contagious respiratory infection whooping cough is on the rise in Victoria, with a 56% increase in cases reported in 2014 compared with the previous year. Furthermore, refusal to vaccinate has left close to half of Australia’s suburbs at risk of a measles outbreak arising from international travel, despite the disease being officially eliminated.
“Ultimately it is a parents [sic] call in terms of how they respond, but we cannot continue to see the alarming rise in diseases like whooping cough and measles, and not respond,” Hennessy said.
“Our aim is not to exclude kids from early childhood services. Our aim is to get people immunized and we’re going to use this as an incentive and a prompt,” she added.