May Chiew looks into the new immunisation requirements parents must meet to be eligible for the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.
The Australian Government provides a number of payments to assist families in the cost of raising children, including the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement. To be eligible for this benefit, children need to be 'fully immunised' against certain diseases by the end of the financial years in which they turn one, two and five years of age.
What Are The Changes?
As of 1 July this year, three new diseases were added to the list of diseases children must be vaccinated against to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement. These are varicella (chickenpox), meningococcal C and pneumococcal disease. Also, the age at which children need to have their second dose of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been brought forward from four years to 18 months.
To ensure they have received the required vaccines at the right time, a child's immunisation status will be assessed after parents lodge their tax return, by checking the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register – the register that records immunisations given to children under seven years of age.
What Do These Changes Mean?
Under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), three doses of vaccine against pneumococcal disease are recommended by six months of age. One dose of meningococcal C- containing vaccine and the first dose of MMR are recommended at one year of age. The vaccine against varicella (chickenpox) and the second dose of MMR are recommended at 18 months of age, and will now be given as a combination vaccine: the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine (MMRV).
If a child has already received the 18-month varicella (chickenpox) vaccine but not the 4-year MMR vaccine, the MMR vaccine will be given at 4 years of age.
Why The Changes?
These changes aim to increase the number of children who receive their recommended vaccines on time. Having the majority of children vaccinated means more children will be protected against these diseases, and that the amount of immunity in the community is high enough to protect those who can't be vaccinated because they are too young or because of medical reasons. Having high immunity in the community is also important to prevent disease outbreaks.
Moving the second dose of MMR-containing vaccine from four years to 18 months of age will protect children earlier against these three diseases. Also, the combination vaccine, MMRV, means children will be protected against the four diseases, with one less needle given.
Will These Changes Cost Anything?
Like all other vaccinations linked to family-assistance payments, the vaccinations against these three additional diseases are provided free of charge under the NIP.
Are There Any Exemptions?
Parents can be given an exemption from meeting the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement immunisation requirements if their child is not 'fully immunised' due to medical reasons, their parents' personal or religious beliefs, or if their child is on a recognised catch-up plan. A form approving this exemption needs to be certified by a GP or an immunisation provider.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Further information can be found on the Immunise Australia website at: http://immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/home
A full list of diseases a child needs to be vaccinated against can be found at:
May Chiew is a Master of Applied Epidemiology Scholar for at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance in Sydney.