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94 per cent of children in Australia have received the required vaccinations, according to the federal government.
That percentage has grown since the government introduced its “No Jab, No Pay” policy in 2016.
What’s the “No Jab, No Pay policy”?
The “No Jab, No Pay” policy denies social security payments to parents who do not immunise their children. Those key payments are the Family Tax Benefit Part A, the Family Tax Benefit Part A Supplement and the Child Care Benefit
Earlier this year, Social Services Minister Christian Porter told parliament, "The government considers there is no excuse for parents who, for no valid medical reason, choose to not immunise their children.
These parents are not only putting their own children's health at risk but they risk the health of every other child."
Under the National Immunisation Program, vaccination is free for Australian children, but it’s not the case for temporary visa holders, who need to pay to get their children immunised.
Many issues for migrants
Some migrant parents will have to pay up to $800 so their children get immunised - a clear disincentive for many.
Another issue for recent arrivals is that their children might have missed out on immunisation in their countries of origin because of war, political unrest, or simply different requirements. With everything they have to do when they get to Australia, it’s easy to miss out on information about immunisation.
If your children have been vaccinated overseas, it’s important to provide evidence, says Hank Jongen, from the Department of Human Services: “We will accept evidence that your child has been vaccinated overseas, but it is important that you provide us with that evidence."
"You either can give it to your GP or an Australian Vaccination Provider, which is usually through Community Health Centres.”
All the details will then be added to the Australian Immunisation Register.
Calls for a National Immunisation Strategy
To make things more complicated, vaccination policies (and rates) vary across states and territories. This is why many experts argue for a National Immunisation Strategy.
Only New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Western Australia have developed refugee-specific policies.
Adele Murdolo, who is the Executive Director of the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health in Melbourne, welcomes the idea: “I think that would be a very good initiative, because it could build in the way that we are going to be communicating with people in the community to make sure that they know how to get their immunisation."
"And that would solve that problem of lack of awareness in the community,” she says.
“There are quite a few things that it would really benefit from having a coordinated strategy across Australia.”
To find out more about Australian Government immunisation requirements visit humanservices.gov.au/immunisation.
To find out more in your language, call the Multilingual Phone Service on 131 202 or visit humanservices.gov.au/yourlanguage.