Anti-vaxxers in Australia will no longer be able to send their children to childcare or kindergarten under proposed reform by the government of Victoria. The state is to introduce new legislation that says only fully vaccinated children can attend such care groups, as well as closing a loophole that exempts parents who chose not to vaccinate their children on the grounds of being conscientious objectors.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said: "What we don't accept is those who go around myth-making about the risks of vaccination. The public health and well-being of the broader community has to take precedence against the anti-vaccination movement."
Under the new laws, only children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be exempt, the Australian Associated Press reports. "Ultimately it is a parent's call in terms of how they respond, but we cannot continue to see the alarming rise in diseases like whooping cough and measles and not respond," Hennessy added.
The move follows a surge in reported cases of whooping cough in Victoria. At present, the state has a 92% vaccinate rate, but the number of new cases has increased by more than 1,000 over the last year. Health experts say unvaccinated children put other children and the community at risk.
The announcement follows new laws that will stop welfare for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Under Tony Abbot's "no jab, no pay" policy, some parents will lose up to $11,000 AUD (£5,000) per year per child. The legislation is expected to come into effect early next year. "It's a very important public health announcement, it's a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible," he was quoted as saying by ABC.
The anti-vaccination movement has been gaining ground in some western countries over recent years, with campaigners saying they are dangerous. Their arguments, which are not supported by scientific evidence, include an increased risk for autism, that it can harm a child's immune system and that they contain toxic chemicals. The movement has also coincided with a resurgence in diseases such as measles.