Germany mulls fines for dodging measles jab
Germany has just reported one of the highest numbers of measles cases in Europe.
Minister Jens Spahn submitted the bill for the government to debate this week, sparking a discussion about whether compulsory vaccinations are an infringement of personal freedom.
Germany has reported more than 300 cases of the measles this year, after more than 500 cases last year, following a global trend.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Italy topped the list with 2,498 reported cases.
Under the proposed legislation, young children who have not been immunised would not be allowed to enter preschool. But school attendance is compulsory after six so parents would face a fine.
Spahn compared the proposal to traffic laws that fine speeding drivers. “The goal is not to fine people, the goal is to ensure that people are immunised,” the health chief said.
“We have been having this debate every few months over the past 10, 20 years,” Spahn told broadcaster ZDF. “Whenever there is an outbreak and children or students have to be kept away from lessons, everyone says we could, we should do something — but not enough happens.”
It takes two doses of the measles vaccine to protect children. While 97 per cent of German children had their first dose, this dropped to 93 per cent for the second injection, the WHO (World Health Organisation) said for 2017. Medics say there must be at least 95-per-cent vaccination to make communities immune to measles.
Under the bill, which is due to be put to the Bundestag later this year and could take effect in the first part of 2020, adults working in schools, hospitals and other public bodies would be required to show evidence of immunisation.
Germany has seen recent measles outbreaks in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, largely around schools.
There were more than 112,000 reported cases globally in the first quarter of 2019, according to the WHO, nearly quadruple the 2018 levels. Far more cases will have gone unreported, the health body said
German information campaigns encourage parents to have their children immunised but Spahn said the outbreaks showed more drastic action was needed.
Germany had pledged to eradicate the disease by 2015.
Measles can cause severe complications like blindness and seizures in developed countries but is more likely to be lethal in poorer regions.
Measles is seldom deadly in the developed world. Picture credit: Flickr