Australians will no longer be able to claim a religious exemption for child vaccinations and still be eligible for certain government benefits, officials announced Sunday.
The new policy impacts one group in particular — Christian Scientists — which had the only official exemption from vaccinations. That exemption, “in place since 1998, is no longer current or necessary and will therefore be removed,” Australia’s Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
“Having been informed the religion is not advising members to avoid vaccinating their children and following engagement with members, the government no longer sees that the exemption is current and the authorization for this exemption has been withdrawn,” Morrison said.
A spokeswoman with the Church of Christ, Scientist did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
“It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants,” reads the official Web site of Christian Science. “Many Christian Scientists decide to pray first about every challenge — including health issues — and find it effective.”
Under the new Australian policy, dubbed “No Jab, No Pay,” parents who do not have their children vaccinated could stand to lose as much as $11,000 yearly in welfare benefits, CNN reported. The Australian government will no longer receive applications from religious groups seeking vaccine exemptions, Morrison said.
Australia has 39,000 children who are not vaccinated because their parents are “conscientious objectors,” ABC Australia reported. Children can still be exempt from vaccines for medical reasons, Morrison said.
While Australia has taken a broad approach in dealing with vaccines, nearly all states in the United States allow religious exemptions for immunizations. Only West Virginia and Mississippi don’t allow such exemptions, according to 2014 data from the National Conference of States Legislatures.
Just 20 states allow people to not vaccinate their children based on philosophical reasons, such as personal or moral beliefs, according to NCSL.
Religious attitudes differ in Australia, where 76 percent of people say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral, compared to 46 percent of Americans, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. Australia’s attitudes track closely with Britain, where 78 percent of people said the same thing.
Christians count as the largest religious group in Australia, comprising 67 percent of the country’s population. The next biggest group are people — 24 percent of Australians — are unaffiliated with any faith tradition, according to Pew.