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Trends and patterns in vaccination objection, Australia, 2002–2013

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Considerable media and public attention has been focused in recent years on the refusal by some parents to vaccinate their children as recommended by health authorities. Vaccination coverage has often been purported to be declining nationally as a result, particularly in more affluent inner-city suburbs (for example, 1).

Until the end of 2015, the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) recorded registered objection to vaccination based on personal, philosophical or religious beliefs. Registration of objection required a vaccination provider to complete a conscientious objection form; this was necessary only when the parents wished to remain eligible for family assistance payments from the federal government or, in some states, to be able to enrol their child in childcare. It is therefore likely that ACIR data have not captured all instances of parental objection to vaccination.

Only one published Australian study has reported an in-depth analysis of vaccination objections, a national survey conducted in 2001.2 Our study aimed to examine trends in registered vaccination objection and differences in the geographic and demographic distribution of objection across Australia, and to assess the contribution of unregistered objection to incomplete vaccination.

Methods

The ACIR was established in 1996 by incorporating demographic data recorded…

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