The Australian Government’s ‘No Jab, No Pay’ vaccination policy may disproportionately impact low-income families, new research suggests.

The ‘No Jab, No Pay’ legislation, introduced in 2016, removed the option of non-medical exemptions from the vaccination requirements to receive certain family and childcare tax benefits, with the intention of boosting vaccination coverage.

Researchers have conducted an online survey of 400 parents with children under five that found 82 per cent of parents support the policy.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of parents rely on the financial incentives associated with ‘No Jab, No Pay’ in order to make ends meet.

Participants were asked if they would change their view on vaccination as a result of the policy. Parents who were more reliant on the payments were also more than twice as likely to change their view and support vaccination.

“While it’s possible to view these results as evidence of the policy’s success in changing attitudes, the reality is that the policy has more influence on low income families,” said researcher Mallory Trent from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

“Wealthy families who do not wish to vaccinate their children can afford to opt out, while low income families cannot,” said Ms Trent.

“More research is needed to understand whether the increased willingness to vaccinate is due to an actual change in parents’ opinion about vaccination, or whether parents are feeling pressured to vaccinate because of the threat of losing the payments.”

There has been a slight increase in childhood vaccination since the policy was introduced (currently almost 95 per cent of five-year old children are fully vaccinated), but the researchers caution that punitive measures to improve childhood vaccination also have the potential to erode public trust in vaccination programs.

The study is accessible here.