Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are exploiting a loophole in the recently scrapped Maternity Immunisation Allowance (MIA) scheme that lets them receive government payments despite not vaccinating their kids. The MIA was axed by the Gillard government at the start of this month, but parents who are eligible for it can still claim payments until 30 June 2013. Part of the criteria for eligibility is that their child “is fully immunised or has an approved exemption by 30 June 2012.” And one type of ‘approved exemption’ is for parents who are ‘conscientious objectors’ to child vaccination.
Why are Australian taxpayers giving their tax money to parents who insist on exposing other children to the risk of (totally preventable) disease? Anti-vaxers and organisations that promote their cause like the misleadingly named Australian Vaccination Network are ignorant populists who spread lies and misinformation about vaccines. Their attitude towards child vaccinations, far from being simply a matter of personal choice, has a harmful impact on others. By choosing not to vaccinate their kids, these irresponsible parents compromise the herd immunity effect that protects the larger population from diseases like whooping cough, meningitis and measles. That they are demanding to be paid by the government for doing this is utterly disgraceful.
Anti-vaxers are usually not qualified to speak with any authority on the subject of vaccines and their effects. Yet medical experts who are qualified to discuss the issue are constantly having to defend their position from ‘concerned parents’ who haven’t got a clue about immunology or epidemiology, and also lack good critical thinking skills. Anti-vax arguments rely on appeals to emotion, appeals to nature, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, cherry picking of facts and using anecdotal evidence rather than hard data and solid statistics.
Steven Novella has written about the problem of anti-vax attitudes among the general public. It’s a US-centric perspective, but Novella’s points apply to anywhere in the world where science and reason are meeting resistance from ignorance, lies and irrationality.
HT: Pen Penh