Dear Ms Dorey,
The Science Party’s position on vaccines is outlined below and is also published here: https://www.scienceparty.org.au/children_deserve_vaccines.
The overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccination has eradicated smallpox and rinderpest, and immensely reduced the burden of dozens of other diseases.
Anti-vaccination groups often point out that deaths from measles and polio were in decline when vaccines for these disease were introduced. Indeed, supportive care and technology such as the iron lung allowed many children to survive these diseases. Some of these survivors suffered permanent effects like sight or hearing loss, or paralysis. Vaccination protects children from these risks.
Some people are unable to be immunised for health reasons. Also, while most people who receive a vaccine against a disease will become immune to that disease for many years, on an individual basis vaccination is not 100% effective.
This is why it is vital for everyone to get vaccinated if it is safe for them to do so. The majority who gain immunity from vaccination protect the young, elderly, immunocompromised and allergic who cannot have the vaccine. This is herd immunity. Those who are not protected by vaccines are protected by the buffer of vaccinated people surrounding them.
The role of government
The Science Party supports measures that encourage parents to vaccinate their children according to the recommended schedule. The task for legislators is to determine which policies will achieve this.
No Jab, No Pay
Requiring up-to-date vaccination for financial rebates sounds like it would boost vaccination rates. However, it is a blunt instrument and doesn’t take into account that many vaccine refusers truly believe that vaccines are harmful, and some families lack access to vaccinations. No monetary incentive will convince a parent who genuinely believes that vaccines are dangerous to have their child vaccinated; and parents who lack access will not suddenly gain it. Some parents have already struggled with payments due to errors in vaccination records.
The Science Party believes education is the best approach as it addresses the root of the problem: fear of vaccines. Prior to 2016, vaccine refusers needed to sign only one form (and have it co-signed by a doctor) to receive all three Family Tax Benefit A Supplement payments. Instead of removing this loophole completely, we should first try increasing the effort required to obtain an exemption, by requiring a doctor’s signature in lieu of each vaccination.
This would increase the opportunity for education about the benefits of vaccination as well as help health authorities keep track of vaccine refusal.
No Jab, No Play
It is reasonable for parents of children who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons, and parents who have done the right thing and had their children vaccinated, to expect that all children at their child’s care facility are vaccinated. The “No Jab, No Play” policy has the unfortunate effect of isolating unvaccinated children, but in this case the health of the many should not be endangered because a few parents have made the choice to forego health care for their child(ren).
The rights of parents with regards to their children are not absolute; children are not chattel, but human beings with rights, and the Science Party believes access to health care is a right. There is precedent in Australian law for parents’ wishes being overridden in the best interests of a child’s health. While the Science Party believes that vaccination should not be compulsory, due to the difference between preventative medicine and emergency care, we do believe that refusing vaccination for one’s children is denial of care.
Andrea Leong | Candidate for Kingsford Smith