Despite the mountain of scientific research supporting vaccination and almost universal recommendation by healthcare professionals worldwide to get the shot, the anti-vax movement is still generating steam.
We’ve become a generation of mistrust and misinformation, and the repercussions are concerning: the number of children in Australia who have not been vaccinated against measles and other diseases has almost doubled.
So to overwhelm fanaticism with reason, the Australian government has enacted a new policy which will cut welfare payments to parents who refuse to immunize their children starting January 1, 2016.
That’s a hit of almost $15,000 CDN per child annually.
“The choice made by families not to immunize their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in announcing the initiative.
It’s estimated that around 39,000 children under the age of seven in Australia are susceptible to measles and other diseases as a result of their parents’ refusal to vaccinate.
The unprecedented move is a world first and considerably radical, and its success is difficult to determine before it is implemented. While a significant number of people will likely choose to vaccinate based on the hassle factor alone, it’s also possible that the legislation will further alienate anti-vaxxers from what should be a very unanimous decision.
It’s possible to opt out of vaccinations for religious reasons and there are no financial penalties for non-compliant parents who don’t receive welfare benefits, both facts which hinder the policy’s ability to be an all-encompassing solution.
The most pressing question, of course, is whether or not governments should be allowed to coerse people into actions of this nature where consent is forced under duress.
A petition calling the decision unconstitutional blackmail has reached almost 10,000 signatures already.
“If we really think immunizations are valuable, which they are, and that the vast majority of people are sensible and want their children vaccinated, which they do, why do we then need draconian measures?” asks University of Sydney clinical professor David Isaac.
For Prime Minister Abbott, it’s just another nanny state dilemma.