Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Why Do We Pay Parents Who Won’t Vaccinate their Kids?

By Peter Speck

The federal government wrestles with the cost of health care for Australians, so isn’t it time they stopped paying parents not to vaccinate their children?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Vaccination is critically important to maintaining the health of our children and society. Smallpox, the biggest killer of all time, was vanquished by vaccination, and the scourge of polio is almost gone, again through successful vaccination campaigns.

Measles, a vaccine-preventable disease, is highly infectious and very dangerous. Unvaccinated people, especially young children and individuals with impaired immunity, are especially vulnerable. Roughly one in ten children who contract measles ends up in hospital with complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis. Up to 3% of these children may die. Vaccination prevents measles yet our government pays people not to vaccinate their kids.

Keeping infectious diseases under control relies heavily on herd immunity, the effect where vaccinating most of the community protects unvaccinated individuals. Herd immunity helps protect babies and young children before they can be fully vaccinated, those few individuals who, for legitimate medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, and the sick or elderly with reduced immune function.

Measles demonstrates the importance of herd immunity, being so infectious that each case infects up to 18 other people. To stop a measles epidemic taking off in our community, vaccination rates must be close to 100%. Even a small proportion of unvaccinated people is enough to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.