Australian mother plans to open controversial 'no vax' childcare centre
An Australian mother says she wants to set up a 'no vax' childcare centre.
Juanita 'Wanda' Halden says she is responding to "no jab, no play policies", pro-vaccination health campaigns and government threats to strip welfare payments from parents who refuse to immunise their children, and says she has already been approached by a small number of interested mothers.
"I am a woman who answers to Creator - not corporation," Halden, from northern New South Wales, said in a post on her Facebook page.
"Therefore I am the highest authority when it comes to making decisions concerning my body or that of my property 'my child' ... I understand true immunity starts in the gut, starts at home, [and] is not found in a pill, needle or pharma lab."
NSW Early Childhood Education Minister Leslie Williams said it was an irresponsible move.
"As a former nurse, I am appalled that a service of this type would be suggested," she said.
"In NSW, we have a 'no jab, no play' policy. Services who do not comply face penalties, including prosecution.
"Vaccines are safe and effective. Administering vaccines is the best way to protect your child from serious disease. By vaccinating, you are protecting your child as well as the broader community."
Under NSW law, children must be vaccinated to attend a childcare centre. An exemption can be granted if children have a medical condition which means they cannot be safely vaccinated, they are on a recognised catch-up schedule, or a parent objects to vaccination on religious or other grounds, however they must present documents completed by a medical professional.
In New Zealand, immunisation is not compulsory but all early childhood services and primary schools must keep an immunisation register of children attending.
The Australian federal government's 'no jab, no pay' law means conscientious objectors will not be able to claim any type of family payments or childcare subsidies.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, Halden believes government policies about vaccination and access to childcare are "a war crime against humanity".
"Think anti-discrimination, war crimes, crimes against humanity, human rights violations, assault and battery charges and more," she reportedly said.
The NSW north coast has the lowest immunisation rates in the country, with just over 86 per cent of 1-year-olds fully immunised.
Heidi Robertson from Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters told the ABC that many in the region who did not vaccinate believed their "healthy lifestyle" would protect their families from disease.
"We're constantly going through outbreaks here of whooping cough and chickenpox. It's a real worry for pregnant mums, and especially mums that have new babies," she said.
"The ... thing that you hear a lot is, 'I don't need vaccinations if I need a healthy lifestyle. If I get enough sunshine and vitamin D and I eat a healthy diet, then I don't need to worry about vaccinations'.
"Those things are fantastic and they're very important, but they don't provide the specific protection that vaccines give us.
"The proof is in the pudding. The Northern Rivers here, we have got so much sunshine, so much organic healthy food and people lead very healthy lifestyles, but we are continually having outbreaks."
NSW Labor health spokesman Walt Secord said he wanted action, not words, when it came to childhood vaccination rates.
"It is time the Baird government drew a line in the sand and stood up to the anti-vaccination movement," Secord said.
"It is irresponsible, dangerous and ridiculous - and puts the whole community in danger of measles, whooping cough, mumps and other deadly diseases."
Halden declined to comment when asked to speak about her plans for an anti-vaccination childcare centre.
"At this stage I will not be doing any further press statements," she said. "I will issue a press release at the beginning of 2016."