Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a new proposal that would prohibit children from enrolling in day care or preschool nationwide unless they’re vaccinated.
New Scientist reports that the Australian government wants to raise rates of childhood vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella up to 95 percent from 93 percent. The new goal is based on herd immunity theory, which states that 95 percent of a population must be immune in order to protect vulnerable, non-immune members of that population such as infants.
“Vaccination objection is not a valid exemption. We must give parents the confidence that their children will be safe when they attend childcare and preschool,” Turnbull wrote in a letter to Australian state and territory leaders, according to the Guardian. “Parents must understand that if their child is not vaccinated they will be refused attendance or enrollment.”
Australia has already withheld federal childcare subsidies from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for well over a year. Three Australian states — Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland — all have a “no jab, no play” policy that prevents any unvaccinated preschool child, no matter if there’s a current outbreak, from going to day care.
Now, the new federal policy that Turnbull is proposing mimics Victoria’s version, which requires that all children receive a vaccination except in cases where there is a medical reason not to receive one (i.e. allergies).
According to New Scientist, while the nationwide policy would no doubt raise immunization rates, it could also victimize certain children.
They spoke to Nesha Hutchinson from the Australian Childcare Alliance, a children’s education advocacy group. Hutchinson states that unvaccinated children will lose out on their all-important early education because of choices made by their parents. She added that many of these unvaccinated children will come from marginalized families, which are less likely to vaccinate their children.
Furthermore, Turnbull’s new hard-line approach could also elicit a backlash against vaccinations, according to the University of Sydney’s Julie Leask.
“People without any previous interest in vaccination may defend anti-vaccination activists,” Leask told the New Scientist, “and join their cause because they are concerned about the threat to civil liberties.”