New Zealand is now contemplating using the same set of incentives to boost immunisation rates that Australia used to boost it’s rates from 50% to 91%. The MacDoctor is not convinced that New Zealanders will respond quite as well as Australians to the incentives. The incentives were:
- Cash payments to parents for completing immunisations at 6 months and four years.
- Cash bonuses to doctors for improving their immunisation uptake
- Monitoring immunisation targets and having immunisation days
- Attempted eradication of measles
- Schools refusing to take un-immunised children
While this worked well in Australia, one has to consider the composition of parents un-vacccinated children. They come in two types.
- Parents who are genuinely concerned that vaccination is dangerous
- Parents who couldn’t be arsed to vaccinate their kids.
I postulate that Australia had a great deal of parents in the second category. Unfortunately, I suspect New Zealand has a far smaller portion of parents in category 2 and a much higher spread of parents in category 1. Parents in category 1 are not going to be moved by any financial incentive (seen as “we’ll give you this small amount of money, if you let us poison your children”). They will not be persuaded by GPs with a vested financial interest, nor by nurses with a gung-ho “vaccinate anything that moves” attitude. Schools refusing to take children will just see these parents move their children to private schools or to a home-schooling environment (where, frankly, they will be unlikely to catch the childhood diseases they are not immunised against!). In short, New Zealand is unlikely to see the massive improvement Australia saw and the increase expenditure will be largely wasted.
Note: I have no hard data to support my conclusion, just my general experience. But it would be very advisable for the MoH to run a survey to determine the mix of parents who decline to immunise their children before copying Australia’s effort.
I also have deep concerns about the ethical nature of banning children from creche, primary and secondary schooling on the basis of their immunisation status. That goes for threatening to cut benefits as well. To me, it seems incredibly stupid to seriously harm children’s education and deepen their poverty levels in order to force people to have their children immunised. The consequence will be that those who opt out for conscientious reasons will suffer these harms, since they sincerely believe their children’s health will be seriously harmed by vaccination. These methods are therefore, in my opinion, completely inappropriate, regardless of the numbers of parents in the first category above.
You wouldn’t approve of a doctor who gave a person (of sound mind) an injection against their will. Why should we approve a government that tries the same thing?