An Australian policy has set a new global standard for prioritizing scientific evidence over misguided fears. Faced with decreasing vaccination rates that threatened the most vulnerable citizens in the country, the Australian government made a bold decision to withhold tax incentives for families with unvaccinated children.
In just seven months, the country now has its highest vaccination rate in history.
Because vaccinations have done such a great job of reducing infectious diseases to historic lows, some people have forgotten how devastating these illnesses can be and ultimately viewed vaccines as unnecessary. If the vaccination rate in a population dips too far, diseases are able to re-emerge and those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons are the most at risk.
In order to protect people who are immunocompromised through herd immunity, the vaccination rate needs to be around 95 percent. As the Australian rate dropped to 90 percent and looked to decline further, the government needed to take a strong position in favor of vaccines. Thus, the No Jab, No Pay policy was introduced.
Starting at the beginning of 2016, every child must be fully vaccinated in order for his/her parent to receive certain tax credits, totaling about AUS$15,000 per family. Additionally, children must be current on all vaccines in order to begin school.
Of course, children who are unable to receive vaccines because of medical conditions are exempt from this policy. The biggest change is that parents will no longer be able to be conscientious objectors without a medical reason, as unvaccinated individuals are too big of a public health risk.
An update was recently given about how effective the program has been over the first seven months, and the results are extraordinary.
Over 5,700 children whose parents previously opted them out of vaccines were immunized for the first time, and nearly 150,000 children who were previously behind in their schedules were brought current. Immunization rates have now hit 93 percent for 1-year-olds and 5-year-olds, which is making health officials feel much better about hitting their goal of 95 percent.
No Jab, No Pay was Australia's way of drawing a line in the sand and saying they would no longer let ill-informed anti-vaxxers pose a risk to public health. The United States and other countries where vaccination rates are going down would be wise to follow suit.
Great job, Australia!
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