Government’s policy sees 5,700 immunise children and another 148,000 update vaccinations to avoid cuts of up to $15,000 a year

The federal government’s ‘no jab, no pay’ law has led to an extra 5,700 children being vaccinated since its implementation at the start of the year.

Social services minister Christian Porter says more than 5,700 have secured their child care payments by having their children immunised since the campaign started in January.

Under the vaccination policy, which came into effect on January 1, parents will lose the family payments of up to $15,000 a year can be withheld from parents who don’t immunise their children. Families receiving child care benefit and the child care rebate were given until March this year to get immunisations up to date or miss out on payments.

“We were facing a situation where the medical community were telling us that ‘herd immunity rates’, as they call it, need to be 95%, and we were just dropping steadily below that,” Porter said.

“It means that all parents can be absolutely certain and secure now that when their kids are going into childcare, that the government’s enacted a policy that’s lifted the immunisations up for things like whooping cough and polio, so that kids are protected in childcare.”

More than 148,000 children who were not up-to-date with their immunisations are also now meeting the requirements.

State and territory health departments report they are being inundated with calls from GPs and health nurses about how to implement catch-up schedules, particularly for children who have never been vaccinated, as parents flock to immunisation providers.

Meanwhile, health departments are sending out increased vaccine supplies, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Sussan Ley confirmed.

NSW Health director of communicable diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said for example there had been an increase in the supply of vaccines given at two, four and six months old to protect against pneumococcal disease from an average of 24,000 doses a month in the preceding months to 29,000 doses in January.

Anticipating an increase in immunisations, the federal government made specific vaccines available to catch up older children who hadn’t been immunised at the recommended ages. “There has also been strong interest in these vaccines,” Dr Sheppeard said.

The director of public health for the NSW North Coast, Paul Corben, said a lot of parents were seeking immunisation advice and vaccines since the ‘no jab, no pay’ policy had become law. “Across the state we’re all fielding a lot of inquiries,” he said.