CANBERRA, Australia -- The Australian government said on Wednesday that it will pass a law that would withhold child care and other payments from families that fail to immunize their children.
The "No Jab, No Pay Bill" introduced to Parliament would also remove a category of "conscientious objector" that allowed parents to remain eligible for full government benefits despite not immunizing their children.
"The choice made by some families not to vaccinate their children is not supported by public policy or medical research, nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of family payments," Social Services Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament.
Families would lose up to 15,000 Australian dollars ($11,000) per child per year in tax and child care benefits from Jan. 1, 2016, unless their children are vaccinated.
Exemptions would apply only for valid medical reasons.
The legislation is likely to be passed by Parliament without any amendments. Public reaction to the proposed change has been overwhelmingly positive.
While 97 percent of Australian families that claim tax benefits for their offspring are vaccinated, the number of children under 7 years old who are not vaccinated because their parents are objectors has increased by more than 24,000 over the past decade to 39,000, the government said.
Lower vaccination rates enable the spread of preventable diseases including measles and mumps, health officials say. In the U.S. a measles outbreak traced to Disneyland last winter sickened more than 100 people and prompted the state of California to pass a law limiting vaccine exemptions.