Infectious diseases are responsible for millions of deaths every year all over the world. Fortunately, through improvements in medical science, the vaccination of young children has provided an extremely effective way of protecting one of the most at-risk groups from a huge variety of diseases- including whooping cough, smallpox, polio and mumps.
Over the last 50 years, advances in medicine which have increased the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, as well as a more rigorous legal framework at both the federal and state government level that requires children to be immunised, have ensured that over 92% of children aged 5 years of age or older are now ‘fully immunised.’ The concerted vaccination effort all around the world has been so successful that a disease such as smallpox, which killed over 300 million people in the 20th century alone, now only exists in the lab.
In an effort to further increase the numbers of children that are ‘fully immunised’ or up-to-date with their vaccinations, federal and state government have recently enacted legislation to effectively compel parents to have their children immunised. The legislation, which since 1988 has required parents to follow immunisation schedules for their children, has been further broadened to include ‘no jab, no play’ provisions – which are intended to protect the community and individual children from families that choose to take the risk of avoiding vaccination. These provisions are particularly onerous on both the parents and children of families that do not follow the schedule of immunisation.
Changes to the Victorian Law
In Victoria, some of the most drastic measures, implemented by both the federal and state governments include:
· Removing the ‘conscientious objection’ to immunisation. Effectively, families could previously object to having their children immunised on moral grounds. As there is little medical research or public policy supporting any moral ground to object to immunisation, this particular objection has been removed as a valid reason for not vaccinating one’s children.
· Removing the ‘religious grounds objection’ to immunisation on the same grounds as above.
· Parents who do not immunise their children in line with the legislated schedule will not be able to claim the Child Care Benefit (CCB), Child Care Rebate (CCR) or Family Tax Benefit Part A payments from the federal government. This is the case unless the parents can show a valid medical reason for why their child cannot be immunised.
· Prohibiting children that are unvaccinated from enrolling in childcare centres. This includes kindergarten, family day care, occasional care and long day care, but does not include primary or secondary schools, after care services (in schools), or casual occasional care services (such as at a gym or shopping centre.) Children may only continue to be enrolled in these services if they fall under a medical exemption, are classified as belonging to a disadvantaged group or are undergoing a vaccination catch-up.
Vaccination laws are being tightened to ensure children are safe from preventable diseases that have caused millions of deaths in the past. There are severe consequences for parents that choose to continue failing to vaccinate their children, and these can put their children at a significant disadvantage through their early lives, without even taking into account the risk posed to the child's health. If you have any questions about this article or would like to talk with a lawyer, please get in contact with us on 03 8877 6888.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice.