Australian state and territories are under renewed pressure from the Federal Government to ban unvaccinated children from enrolling in childcare centres.
Laws implemented in Queensland, NSW and Victoria require children to be fully immunised or on an approved catch-up program in order to enrol. Now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants the rest of the nation to catch up. He has written to premiers and chief ministers urging them all to get on board.
No jab, no pay proves effective
The current national vaccination rate is about 93 per cent, bolstered by the government’s no jab, no pay measure introduced last year denying welfare payments to families that don’t vaccinate their children. But, Mr Turnbull says there is still work to be done to push it to the goal of 95 per cent or higher. “We believe we can take it further than that — this has got to be a concerted national effort by all governments to ensure all our children can be vaccinated,” PM Turnbull told the ABC.
New call, no jab no play
Over the weekend, Mr Turnbull held a press conference where he called for a national approach aimed at improving this further, the Huffington Post reports. “I am calling on the states and territories to support a concerted national policy so that children who are not vaccinated cannot attend childcare or preschool centres,” he says. “Our national policy should be no jab no pay, no jab no play.”
Australian Medical Association Michael Gannon told Fairfax he agrees with the tough stance because children younger than primary school age are yet to develop basic hygiene skills and vaccinations is a community responsibility. “If you, as a parent, expect the community to support you by either welfare payments or access to care, then you need to do your bit to contribute to that community by protecting other children,” he says.
Mr Gannon clarified he would not, however, support a ban on unvaccinated children accessing primary education because many are already at a disadvantage.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Labor supports the Liberal decision to stand against the “anti-vaccination brigade” but says a national education campaign is needed.
Who needs to catch up?
All state and territories have free childhood immunisation programs available and while parents are required to let childcare centres know if their child is vaccinated or not, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, ACT, South Australia and Western Australia still allow unvaccinated children to enrol.
Despite this, it is important to mention that apart from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, all state and territories are pretty much on par with more than 93 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 months being fully immunised. And the ACT is actually ahead of the pack with 94.87 per cent.
This backs up the findings of the latest Australian Child Health Poll, which found the vast majority of Australian parents support childhood vaccination and keep their children’s vaccines up-to-date. The poll also found 74 per cent of parents believe they should be told how many children are not up-to-date with their vaccines at their child’s school, kindergarten or childcare centre and many admitted this would influence their decision whether or not to enrol their child at that school.
With nearly three quarters of parents across Australia supporting a ‘No Jab, No Play’ policy, Malcolm Turnbull might just achieve his goal.