By MAMAMIA TEAM
This is a cause for celebration: the Prime Minister has committed to lifting childhood immunisation rates.
The government announced the beginning of its immunisation campaign last year, when they mandated that parents would have to ensure that all children were fully immunised in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit at the end of the financial year. The family tax benefit supplement can come to more than $2000.
However, in the past, parents were able to apply for exemptions for their children, and still receive the benefit. These exemptions were allowed on medical, religious, and “conscientious objector” grounds.
Kevin Rudd will today announce that, if re-elected, the Labor party will institute a policy that will require all children to be fully immunised – and conscientious objections will no longer be regarded as a legitimate reason to not vaccinate your child.
Going forward, only religious and medical exemptions will apply.
This means that parents who have been exposed to the scare-mongering of the anti-vaccination organisation Australian Vaccination Network, or have been misled by misinformation, will not be able to exempt their child from receiving the immunisation – and still receive the payment.
News Corp reported Kevin Rudd as saying, “The science cannot be disputed. 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.”
Earlier this year, a report from the National Health Performance Authority revealed just how low vaccination rates among children were in some areas of Australia. Although throughout most of Australia vaccination rates sit at approximately 90 per cent, the NHPA revealed that there was still a need to increase rates to ensure protection for children and newborns.
Of greater concern, it was also revealed that in some communities upwards of 1 in 5 children children (that’s 20 per cent) were not fully immunised. This puts children in those areas at significant risk of meningitis, measles and whooping cough. Mamamia covered the NHPA report extensively, and broke down the statistics here.
Kevin Rudd’s pledge to list vaccination rates is completely necessary – because across Australia, more than 77,000 children are not fully immunised. That’s a scary fact, because vaccination effectiveness relies on ‘herd immunity’ to prevent outbreaks of incurable – but preventable – diseases.
And when rates of un-immunised children in any area are particularly high, that increases the chances of there being outbreak. As Mamamia’s publisher and pro-vaccination campaigner Mia Freedman explains:
Let’s be very clear. Those who refuse to immunise their children are not just risking their own children’s health but the lives of others in the community. Vaccinations are not perfect – occasionally, those who have been immunised can still contract the disease – but they are the best we’ve got to protect us against incurable diseases.
We all rely on the immunity of others to protect us, particularly those who are too young to be immunised and anyone with an illness that suppresses their immune system (such as cancer). They are our most vulnerable and high levels of immunisation in the community (above 95%) are crucial for their welfare.
This is why the Australian government needs to commit to ensuring that all Australian children are vaccinated. And this is also why parents, carers and members of the community need to ensure that they themselves receive necessary booster shots.
The fact remains that there’s still more that can be done. A religious objection to vaccination remains, and state and federal governments could still be doing more to promote booster shots for adults.
Recently, the NSW government decided to cease providing a free whooping cough vaccination booster to new mothers. Instead, new mothers will now have to pay anywhere between $40 to $200 to receive their vaccination during pregnancy – which will undoubtedly lower the rates of adults close to children who seek out the vaccination. Pro-vaccination campaigners are now pushing for whooping cough boosters to be added to the National Immunisation Program.
Kevin Rudd has made a good start, but he may not be re-elected come September. For this measure to take effect, Tony Abbott needs to commit to a similar policy. And so he should – because this issue is above politics.
Because vaccinations are how we can most effectively protect our children from these diseases. Prevention is the only cure.
Please share to show your support for stricter regulations regarding vaccinations – and to support further changes to vaccination policy that will continue to protect our children.