THE government’s “no jab, no pay” and now “no jab, no play” policies are an important and essential part of our overall efforts to boost childhood immunisation rates across Australia; including in the regions.
The ‘No Jab, No Pay’ policy has been in place since January 1, 2016.
Only parents of children who are fully vaccinated or are on a recognised catch-up schedule can receive the Child Care Benefit, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement, unless the child has a medical exemption.
Thanks to this policy an additional 200,000 children have been vaccinated.
This week, the Prime Minister wrote to State and Territory leaders seeking their agreement to further strengthening the national childhood immunisation program.
As part of the proposed measures, parents must understand that if their child is not vaccinated they will be refused attendance or enrolment at all childcare centres and preschools across Australia.
In the interests of transparency, the government is also proposing that vaccination rates at each child care centre and preschool are made publicly available.
The overwhelming evidence from my personal experience as medical practitioner for over three decades and from scientific studies is that the benefits of mass immunisation strongly outweigh the small risks.
Australians would probably think differently about vaccination if they visited a developing country and saw the sickness and death that is caused by the diseases we vaccinate against.
Measles is common in some parts of the words.
In November last year the World Health Organization stated: ‘Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 134,200 people died from measles in 2015 – mostly children under the age of five’.
Not only is measles causing deaths overseas, but it is sometimes brought back to Australia by travellers who have been to Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.
With free vaccination available to us, no Australian parent should hesitate to protect their child from this disease.
The Hib vaccine given to babies provides protection against Haemophilus influenzae type B, which causes meningitis, pneumonia and epiglottis (severe throat swelling).
Australia introduced the vaccine into the standard immunisation schedule in 1993, which has led to a more than 95 per cent reduction in the reported incidence of Hibdisease.
The National Immunisation Program is delivered by the Australian government in partnership with states and territories, providing free childhood vaccines and other vaccines for at risk groups.
I can assure you, in tight budget times, the government would not be paying for this program if the benefits were not clear.
Vaccines, like other medicines, can have side effects - however, all vaccines in use in Australia provide benefits that far outweigh their risks.
The great majority of side effects after vaccination are minor and do not last long.
They are not a reason to decide against giving your child and your community the protection that flows from vaccination.
The ‘community’ is relevant because when most people are vaccinated and the disease cannot take hold, benefits flow to everyone through ‘herd immunity’.
This means that people who may not be able to be vaccinated for health reasons, or for whom the vaccine has not worked, are also protected as they are less likely to be exposed to it.
In the case of a highly infectious disease like measles, more than 95pc of the population must be vaccinated to achieve an effective level of herd immunity.
For other childhood infections, the proportion of the population that need to be vaccinated is lower, because the diseases are less infectious.
People living in rural and remote areas of Australia need immunisation just like other Australians.
People move around so fast and so much these days that a disease can spread across great distances very quickly.
It may only take a brief contact with a person carrying the disease, to pass it on to the next person – and the next, and the next.
Childhood immunisations through the national program can be provided by local GPs or through community health centres or Aboriginal Medical Services.
Some Primary Health Networks are promoting vaccination in response to lower rates within their region.
For people in very remote areas, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides vaccination services through fly in, fly out clinics with GPs or nurses.
Increased immunisation rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are helping young Indigenous people to maintain better health, which in turn helps them to keep up their school attendance.
The Australian government’s New Directions: Mothers and Babies Services Program promotes the uptake of immunisation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through targeted child and maternal health activities.
Aboriginal Immunisation Health Care Workers in New South Wales collaborate with Aboriginal Medical Services and community health centres to provide immunisation services for Indigenous people in rural and remote areas.
I believe in free choice, but I also believe that decisions about the health of our precious children should be based on the best, most accurate information.
The science is there in support of vaccination.
I urge all parents to put their children first and reject the scare mongers.