The first thing that needs to be said about vaccinations is that there is absolutely no link between childhood vaccinations and Autism. Numerous studies have confirmed this. And while vaccines do have an adverse effect on some people, the vaccination process is closely controlled and monitored to ensure very high levels of safety for recipients.
It is also worth noting that not vaccinating actually carries a higher level of risk for children. The decision not to vaccinate is not entirely a personal one - unvaccinated children put all those they come into contact with at greater risk. That is the reason behind the government's policy of 'no jab - no pay' for welfare recipients.
The government has hailed their program a success. The problem is that the children of lower income earners and those dependent on government payments are not the most important target group.
Some of the wealthiest suburbs are at high risk due to dangerously low vaccination rates. There are numerous explanations for this (none of which relate to vaccine safety), but what is clear is that families living in areas such as Mossman and Manly are unlikely to be influenced or affected by a 'no jab no pay' policy.
The other areas with dangerously low levels of vaccination are among indigenous people and among select indigenous communities (especially in NT). There is no evidence that these groups are avoiding vaccination based on personal choice or fear of side effects. and the government's own website suggests:
These disparities point to the importance of identification of Indigenous status, particularly in mainstream health services, and particularly in urban areas. The use of patient information systems to record Indigenous status and schedule preventive health services has the potential to increase opportunistic vaccination and enable the provision of patient reminders, with resultant improvements in coverage and timeliness. Culturally appropriate service delivery and communication strategies, as well as use of Indigenous-specific Medicare items, will also assist in improving access to health services for Indigenous Australians.
No mention of 'no jab no pay' so clearly these measures are not intended to close the gap.
Peter Mares from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research suggests that there is another large group that the government isn't targeting and is in effect withholding support from.
Vaccination rates are low is among the 800,000 temporary residents in Australia, people the government has allowed and even encouraged to enter. Public health staff have been instructed not to give free vaccinations to the babies of workers on 457 visas, international students and other temporary visa holders. Instead they have been instructed to seek out a GP and pay for the vaccinations themselves. By asking people from a group that largely has very limited financial resources to pay for immunisation is a formula for low vaccination rates.
Based on the way the government is treating the above higher risk groups, it does make you wonder whether the government is really interested in driving up immunisation rates, or whether immunisation is being used as an excuse for using another tool (no jab no pay) to hit the poor and those depending on financial support from the government. It seems plausible that this government wouldn't be overly disappointed with less than 100% take up as this would be an opportunity to both make savings in the budget and to level blame at those in need for their increased financial hardship.
Because based on the evidence, and based on what strategies are most likely to target key at risk groups, the government isn't being effective and isn't following its own advice. Either they are incompetent or they have a different agenda.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.