The Senate committee looking into the proposed “No Jab No Pay” vaccination policy amendment has recommended that the Bill be passed.
Its report follows hundreds of submissions and a large number of presentations made to a public hearing in Brisbane early this month.
That hearing included some heated comments from various anti-vaccination groups, often talking over each other in making their views heard (or not heard, as the case may be). Audio and transcripts from those sessions can be found on Reasonable Hank’s blog.
The Bill under consideration is the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015. Its proposed measures seek to address the growing rate of conscientious objectors (COs) and the risk this poses to young children and the broader community by limiting access to social service payments.
The committee noted that the percentage of children registered as COs had steadily increased from 0.23 per cent of total children in 1999 to 1.77 per cent in 2014. This equated to 39,523 children in 2014.
About seven per cent of unvaccinated children under two years of age were not registered as COs, according to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR). It was suggested by some submissions to the committee that there could be a range of reasons for this, including: incorrect data in ACIR; they are children of ‘silent’ unregistered objectors; and practical barriers to vaccination.
The committee heard that the Bill would encourage vaccination rates in all children by requiring that children are up to date with their vaccinations each year until they turn 20. This would capture parents who receive Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate for children aged eight to 20, some of whom will be before and after-school care, and those receiving FTB-A supplement and who have not fully vaccinated their children, whether or not they are registered as a CO.
The Department of Social Services told the committee that it expected that in 2016–17 around 10, 000 families would lose an average of $7000 in child care payments and 75,000 families will lose the FTB-A supplement, which is currently $726.35 if the Bill was passed.
Further figures supplied by DSS indicated a drop in the number of children expected to fail the immunisation requirement to receive FTB-A supplement by year of age. In total, that number would decline from 204,500 in 2015-16 to 96,300 in 2017-18.
The committee acknowledged that vaccination carries a small risk of severe adverse reactions. It recognised that Australia, unlike other developed countries, does not have a national vaccine injury compensation scheme and encouraged the Government to examine the merits of such a scheme.
The recommendations of the committee included a number of areas to monitor, with the full list being:
• Recommendation 1: The committee recommends that the Government consider an initial review after 12 months to assess the immediate impact of the Bill and a full evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the Bill after three years of implementation.
• Recommendation 2: The committee recommends that the Government consider the educational and communication strategies to improve vaccination rates proposed by submitters to this inquiry.
• Recommendation 3: The committee recommends that the Government investigate a means of continuing to monitor conscientious objection if the Bill is passed.
• Recommendation 4: The committee encourages the Government to investigate the merits of a national vaccine compensation scheme.
• Recommendation 5: The committee recommends that the Bill be passed.