Law would cut welfare for parents who don't vaccinate

File photo of a child being vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox.

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Australia is trying a new tactic to crack down on parents who don't get their children vaccinated. Under a new policy, they will no longer be eligible for child welfare benefits.

"This is essentially a 'no jab, no pay' policy from this government," Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Sunday.

Families who don't comply would lose the equivalent of $11,500 worth of child care benefits. The BBC reports the policy will go into effect in 2016.

Under the new policy, which gained supported from both government and opposition leaders, families would be allowed to seek exemptions for medical reasons or based on religious objections, which must be registered with their church. Parents would lose benefits if they opt out of vaccinating their children for "philosophical" reasons.

Abbot called the policy "a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible."

The number of unvaccinated children in Australia has more than doubled in the last decade, from fewer than 15,000 children to almost 40,000, the government said.

Health officials say families opting out of vaccines helped contribute to a number of recent outbreaks of preventable illness, including the measles outbreak in the U.S. that sickened more than 100 people after it started spreading at Disneyland last December. Whooping cough and mumps have also seen a resurgence in cases.