Vaccination and Taxes

The Australian government is considering a plan in which parents who do not vaccinate their children do not receive certain tax benefits. I would really love to see some financial incentive being used in the United States.

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  • Andrew Hall

    Oh yeah, there should be some sort of punishment for parents who do not adequately take care of their children,

    • UrsaMinor

      It becomes problematic when you have to define what “adequately take care of their children” actually means in this context. It is situational.

      In any situation where there is significant non-compliance with vaccination programs, the optimal strategy is to vaccinate your own child. This is the best way to minimize the child’s risk (because risk of disease is high, and risk of adverse reaction to the vaccine is very low).

      In any situation where there is a very high degree of compliance, the optimal strategy is to not vaccinate your own child. This is the best way to minimize the child’s risk (because risk of disease is now lower than risk of adverse reaction to the vaccine).

      In practice, real-world populations tend to oscillate between the two states. Vaccination rates rise, disease incidence falls. Disease incidence falls, vaccination rates fall. Vaccination rates fall, disease incidence rises. Disease incidence rises, vaccination rates rise. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

      • DMG

        The trouble is that this decision is made on incomplete information.

        A parent deciding whether to vaccinate usually does not have current vaccination rate figures in front of them, or the thresholds needed to retain herd immunity.

        Worse, the vaccination rate of the whole population now says nothing about the vaccination rate of your daughter’s second grade class years from now. If one parent chooses not to vaccinate based on present data then other parents with children around that age may independently make the same decision…

        A fuller analysis would include the uncertainty that disease prevalence will rise or vaccination rates fall over the child’s lifetime. I think such a calculation would yield more stable results than the “instantaneous optimum” strategy you describe.

      • FO

        You don’t vaccinate your child for his own sake.
        You vaccinate your child for the sake of all other children.

        The good of everybody else’s child trumphs the good of your child.

        • Custador

          Exactly. The kids who die when vaccination rates drop are invariably the kids who couldn’t have been vaccinated anyway. If you don’t vaccinate your child, and one of their class-mates (who has a genuine medical reason why they can’t be vaccinated) dies, then you have committed culpable homicide. End of story.

      • UrsaMinor

        DMG and FO, you both have good points from a scientific and ethical standpoint. And they are completely irrelevant to every anti-vaxer that I have ever spoken to personally, especially the argument that people should be vaccinated in order to protect other people (particularly those who cannot themselves be protected by vaccines due to allergies or a weak immune response). The idea of altruism is rejected out of hand.

        • Custador

          Most anti-vax people I’ve talked to (read: “Berated”) don’t believe that herd-immunity exists, and have no idea about basic viral/bacterial biology.

          • Jabster

            To be far isn’t that true of the majority of the population not just anti-vaxers? I pretty sure my mother had us vaccinated becuase that’s just what you did not because she understood it.

            • Custador

              True, but she had the good sense to trust people who do know about these things – Like doctors – and base her decision on their advice. All of my rage reserved for non-medical types who believe shit they read on new-age bollocks websites instead of the Lancet.

            • Jabster

              She also had the ‘good sense’ to be prescribed mother’s little helpers … anti-vaxers may be wrong but that doesn’t mean doctors are always right.

            • Custador

              Fair one. Valium is only prescribed in emergencies and to existing addicts now.

        • FO

          Are they so impervious? O_O

  • Custador

    Anything that annoys the anti-vaccination conspiracy idiots is a winner as far as I’m concerned. They already do this stuff in France, I believe – And rightly so! If you as a parent will accept one piece of government policy (i.e. being given free money), then you can accept another piece of government policy in exchange (i.e. protecting your child and others from illness, thereby reducing the government’s bill for treating them).

  • vasaroti

    No religious exemptions?

  • Noelle

    We don’t have national health care in the U.S. I’m not sure you could do this here. Also, most people who choose to not vaccinate aren’t siting religion as the reason. (some do, but not most) They site pseudo-pop-science-myth stuff they heard from some celebrity on Oprah, or picked up on the Internet. I don’t know if connecting taxes to that would help increase vax rates. I’m not opposed to it if it works, providing those who cannot have vaccines for real health reasons aren’t punished.

  • kholdom0790

    Why do parents get to decide it’s fine to risk the lives of every child their own children come into contact with? The scope here widens from parents’ own children to the safety of others’ children. You can’t make a decision to not vaccinate ONLY for your family and say, “well, other families are free to choose!” It doesn’t work that way, right?