'No jab no pay' not a magic bullet - Australian vaccine expert

High-profile Northland doctor Lance O'Sullivan is calling for parents who don't vaccinate their children to face benefit cuts.

Appearing on Newstalk ZB on Tuesday, he said he wanted a "firmer position" and it was time to take the "kid gloves" off.

Non-vaccinating rich people also came under fire - with Dr O'Sullivan saying they should be hit with high tax rates.

"What I say to antivaxxers is, 'go live on an island'," he said.

But Frank Beard, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, says 'no jab no pay' is "not a magic bullet".

"There's not a huge amount of evidence that 'no jab no pay' increases vaccine coverage."

On Tuesday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ruled out implementing a 'no jab no pay' policy, saying it doesn't target the full sweep of society.

Beard says she makes a valid point.

"'No jab no pay' targets those on the benefit and leaves out the rest of the population. If you want to get coverage up, you have to get it up for everyone. [New Zealand] shouldn't leap into it, there are plenty of other options to consider."

Most of Auckland's cases have been diagnosed in Counties Manukau, which has a significant Pacific population.

Health officials have been seeing 18 to 20 new cases per day in the past week. Most of those affected are children under five and young people aged 15-29.

Over 50 schools in the region have had measles this year and ARPHS is continuing to work with the Ministry of Education to help schools manage cases.

Pop-up vaccination clinics are trying to slow the rate of transmission - already giving 300 extra vaccinations. Newly trained school nurses will also be offering MMR jabs at 34 south Auckland schools from next week.

Beard says reducing barriers to vaccination must be the Government's number one priority.

"Most people are unvaccinated because of access issues. In poorer communities, it can be harder to get to the doctor, and vaccinations get delayed because it's hard to get kids there."

He says people in these circumstances need free vaccines, better education and doctors appointments that are easy to make and get to.

Despite the rising numbers, anti-vaccination messages are still being circulated. One group is offering a course which covers informed consent, vaccine components and alternative options.

The registration form asks parents, "what initially caused you to question vaccines?"

But Dr Beard says only a small percentage of people who don't vaccinate themselves or their children because they believe in the 'anti-vax' movement. More people fall under the realm of 'hesitancy': they have valid questions or concerns about vaccination.

The website Talking About Immunisation was developed to answer people's queries and reassure them of the safety and necessity of vaccination.

"My personal belief is you should encourage immunisation as a public good," Beard says, echoing David Seymour who has called it a civic duty.

"Once you bring in punitive measures, it can cause angst and ethical problems. Where do you stop - higher taxes for people who don't exercise? There are other less problematic options rather than a 'simple solution' that could have big problems."

He says punitive policies can "polarise and harden" people who already have concerns about vaccines and don't appreciate government intervention.

"It can be a double-edged sword."

Beard says if people's concerns are addressed with empathy and evidence, that will do more to get vaccination coverage up than 'no jab no pay'.

"It's better to approach it with a positive frame of mind, not a punitive one."