‘No Jab, No Play’ Given Green Light by Parents

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Photo: Ashleigh Whitehill

 

A bird-like chirp draws attention to the onesie-clad infant on the soft, shag-pile rug.

Baby Molly looks up at Jessica. With a cheeky grin, she squeals, the light dancing in her delicate, blue eyes. At just five months old she already knows and adores her mum.

She’s just so easy and content Jessica, 28, explains, as she scoops Molly into her arms, lifting her up towards the apartment’s tall ceiling.

Chubby, little Molly is one of the 92.1 per cent of Victorian 12 to 15-month-olds who are fully immunised against illnesses such as tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B.

Jessica and her partner, Warren’s, decision to vaccinate their daughter was made in the midst of much controversy. Recent changes announced by the Andrew’s Government mean Victoria is soon to have a zero tolerance policy towards parents who choose not to immunise their children.

Previously, parents with a ‘conscientious objection’ to having their child immunised could still send their children to day care and kindergarten, but new legislation means some Victorian parents will have to change their tune.

The decision will bring Victoria into line with the Federal Government’s move to strip the government benefits of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, says science is on the side of vaccinating children and there is no excuse not to.

“Vaccinations save lives. It is simply irresponsible for people to ignore the science and choose not to vaccinate their child.”

Jessica agrees, people have tried to make her and Warren feel bad about their decision but she found their points “not very valid”.

“Look, everyone has their reasons, but if it’s for the child’s benefit, I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it.”

Just the same week Molly was born, a four-week-old baby died of whooping cough, Jessica explains, the worry in her eyes illustrating the very real threat of these illnesses.

Seeing your child sick is “not fun”, Jessica adds – little Molly has already had three colds in her life – but it is “something you have to deal with as a parent”. However if it is something you can prevent, Jessica believes parents should do whatever they can.

The state’s new law, to come into effect from January next year, includes a 16-week grace period in some cases, in which parents will be given support needed to organise vaccinations while their children still attend day care or kindergarten.

While this does put already immunised children at risk, Jessica agrees that supporting parents in need is the right thing to do.

“I would have some concern, but the parents are working on getting it done so I’d still agree with the leeway. It gives them time,” she says.

As Jessica embraces her healthy, happy baby, she explains that day care is a very real option as she considers going back to work.

“If I do have to go back to work, there’s no other way you can go. You can’t rely on family all the time.”

The knowledge that it will soon be a requirement for Molly to attend day care with children, who are also protected against illness, is comforting to Jessica as she navigates the future.

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