Life is about to get tougher for Australian parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that "conscientious objectors" to childhood vaccination will lose benefit payments and tax rebates of more than $11,000 per year per child, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "No jab, no play" laws already keep unvaccinated children out of child care centers in much of Australia, and Abbott describes the new policy as "no jab, no play, and no pay." "Parents who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to child care without the fear that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness because of the conscientious objections of others," he says.
"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," Abbott says. Families with medical reasons for avoiding vaccination will be exempted, as will those whose religious groups have formally lodged an objection with the government, although no mainstream religions have objected, the BBC reports. The vaccination rate in Australia is 97%, but the number of "conscientious objectors" has soared over the last decade and there are now an estimated 39,000 children under 7 who haven't had their shots, reports the Herald. (California lawmakers want to stop people opting out of vaccination based on "personal belief.")