'No jab, no pay': Dr Lance O'Sullivan says cut benefits for parents who won't vaccinate

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 3 September 2019, 9:58AM
Dr Lance O'Sullivan.

Northland's Dr Lance O'Sullivan has renewed a call for benefit cuts and higher taxes for parents who don't vaccinate their children.

His comments come as the number of measles cases in New Zealand approaches 1000, with some medical experts now calling the outbreak an epidemic.

As of Friday there were 938 confirmed cases in New Zealand. Of those, 474 people had not been vaccinated. Another 22 were only partly vaccinated and 389 did not know if they were vaccinated.

Just 53 of the people who caught measles this year had been vaccinated.

O'Sullivan told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking he favoured a "firmer position" on vaccinating children in New Zealand.

He agreed with the "no jab no pay" concept rolled out in Australia, where benefits would be cut if parents did not vaccinate.

But he said this was not about welfare bashing - he also wanted to see a higher tax rate brought in for non-compliance. "You've got to hit people at both ends of the spectrum."

The Northland doctor has been a fierce advocate for vaccination. In 2017 he stormed a screening of the anti-vaccination movie Vaxxed, telling the audience they were responsible for children dying.

He has called for all parents to be forced to vaccinate as far back as 2015, when Australia first brought in the no jab, no pay policy.

Last year Australia signalled it was planning to strengthen the rules adding fines for parents who do not vaccinate.

Yesterday, Australia media reported that warning had led to an extra 174,000 children being vaccinated in one year.

The National Government considered making immunisation a condition of the benefitwhen passing welfare reforms in 2012 after the Welfare Working Group recommended it.

However, then Social Development Minister Paula Bennett opted against it, saying it would breach the right to refuse medical treatment, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

O'Sullivan told Hosking it was time for the "kid gloves" to come off in New Zealand.

"We have rules in the country when there's good science and evidence that a particular behaviour protects lives," he said. "An example of that is seatbelts. We have a fine if you don't wear a seatbelt because we know that before the introduction of seatbelts - circa 1970s - people died from significant head injuries."

Dr Lance O'Sullivan wants parents who don't vaccinate to be hit in their wallets. Photo / Nick Reed
Dr Lance O'Sullivan wants parents who don't vaccinate to be hit in their wallets. Photo / Nick Reed

New Zealand's leaders needed to make decisions that were "bold and courageous and sometimes not always that popular", he said.

He said 5 per cent of the country would hate him - referring to anti-vaxxers as a "bunch of haters and wreckers and scaremongers that are out there causing harm".

He blamed Andrew Wakefield - a struck-off doctor responsible for the fraudulent study that claimed the MMR vaccine caused autism - for the 300 per cent increase in global cases of measles across the globe in the past 12 months.

That sentiment had killed hundreds of children around the world, he said.

"Now what I say to antivaxxers is, 'Go live on an island'."

The Ministry of Health's director-general Ashley Bloomfield yesterday said much of New Zealand's shortfall in vaccination rates was related to vaccine hesitancy and access issues rather than being directly due to anti-vaxx sentiment.

However, University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said vaccine hesitancy was a direct result of anti-vaccination activities.

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