Thursday, February 09, 2012

Australia to strip anti-vaccination parents of tax benefits

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I’m not normally one to support government intrusions into people’s personal decision-making, especially regarding their own children, but any objections I may have just float away like fairy dust when it comes to matters of public safety. And here’s a good illustration of this: The Australian government has a new policy to strip parents of over $2,000 in tax benefits per child if they don’t vaccinate their kids, which I think is a surprisingly reasonable rule on several levels:

The Government says 11 per cent of five-year-olds are not immunised and has announced a shake-up of the system which will take effect from July 1 next year.

Under the changes, families who refuse vaccinations face losing up to $2,100 per child in benefits.

Families will need to have their children fully immunised to receive the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A end-of-year supplement.

A new immunisation check will be introduced for one-year-olds to supplement the existing immunisation checks at two and five years of age.

The FTB supplement, worth $726 per child each year, will now only be paid once a child is fully immunised at these checks.

Families are already required to have their child fully immunised to receive Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate.

First of all, these issues of government interference and general well-being can always be readily summarized by that iconic Star Trek quote: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. This is equally true in politics and healthcare policy. Given that the only rationale for refusing to vaccinate children is solely based on either garbage pseudoscience or an irrational fear of minute risks, there really aren’t any good reasons for endangering both your own kids’ lives and other people’s families by decreasing the levels of herd immunity. True, a few unvaccinated children here and there are hardly a threat, but the danger is when this sort of thinking catches on, as we’ve seen happen in the last few years with resurgences of childhood diseases that have already led to children dying.

At any rate, this doesn’t even actually count as governmental intrusion, given that no-one is actually being forced to vaccinate their kids per se; they just lose some tax benefits if they don’t. We’re not exactly talking about jackbooted enforcers banging at the doors of non-vaccinators and hauling them off to immunization camps, here. It’s just a comparatively minor financial incentive. In addition, the new rules allow for “conscientious objectors” to receive the full benefits if only they fill out some paperwork, so even those lazy or misguided parents who don’t want no vaccinated kids still have a way out.

It really is a matter of life and death. On that basis alone, the Australian government is doing the right thing in getting people to adopt scientifically proven methods to protect the lives of their families and communities at large. We’re all pretty safe so far, but that’s only thanks to mass immunizations. If the cancer of Jenny McCarthy, the (Orwellianly named) Australian Vaccination Network, & co. is allowed to spread, Aussies (and the rest of us) will be paying a much higher price down the line than some lost tax benefits.

(via Joe. My. God.)