WA Immunisation Rates 'The Lowest' In Australia
Parents who've had their childcare rebates and welfare payments suspended for failing to immunise their children can have them reinstated reasonably quickly once their kids get jabbed, Social Services Minister Christian Porter says.
Under the "No Jab, No Pay" policy, children must be fully immunised, have a valid medical exemption or be on a catch-up schedule if parents are to continue receiving benefits.
For Family Tax Benefit A alone, an estimated $38 million in payments have been withheld.
"You can get your payment back within a reasonable period of time if you do the right thing and organise to have your child immunised," Mr Porter told reporters in Perth on Sunday.
"We've just made a judgment that if you had to increase immunisation rates, which we did have to do, then there has to be a real sanction.
"All you need to do as a family to get that money back is do the right thing."
New figures show big improvements in immunisation rates around the country, with 187,695 children catching up with their requirements since January 1.
Mr Porter said it was particularly pleasing immunisation rates among indigenous children had surged.
While he praised Tasmania for its progress, some of the highest immunisation rates were recorded in the ACT, while NSW topped the table for five-year-old indigenous children with 96.2 per cent coverage.
Mr Porter said the 95 per cent target level was critical to provide what's known as herd immunity - when large numbers of individuals are immune to disease, chains of infection are disrupted, stopping or slowing the spread of disease.
"Previously, we were way off," he said.
While coverage rates in Western Australia have improved, they are still the lowest of all jurisdictions in five out of six categories.
"WA often lags behind in indicators like this, as does the Northern Territory, because of the very large scale of geography that we're dealing with and many remote communities," Mr Porter said.
"Because indigenous rates of immunisation are lifting, we expect WA to catch up."
Fremantle was singled out as being a low performing area.
"Fremantle is one of the areas around Australia where there are a large number of conscientious objectors," Mr Porter said.
"There are still pockets around Australia where people seem to have in their head that there's a reason they shouldn't immunise but this policy is about convincing them that they absolutely should.
"We are now having more conscientious objectors immunise their children."