Germany has just passed a law to make measles vaccinations compulsory for children, with parents who fail to prove their children are immunized facing hefty fines.
It stipulates that all parents have until July 31, 2021, to provide evidence that their children have been vaccinated before they enter school or kindergarten. The same applies to people who work as educators, teachers, daycare workers, and medical personnel. Equally, asylum seekers and refugees must also provide evidence showing they have received a vaccine if they are admitted to any shelters or shared accommodation.
Failure to provide proof, such as a vaccination certificate, could result in a hefty fine of €2,500 ($2,750). Daycare centers and kindergartens that allow unvaccinated children might also receive the fine.
With similar actions being taken in other European nations, it’s clear why Germany decided to pass such an act. Many other parts of the world have suffered a startling resurgence of measles over the past few years.
In the first two months of 2019, over 34,300 measles cases were reported in Europe, compared to 25,869 cases in total in 2017, and just 5,273 cases in 2016. In 2018, according to the latest statistics available, Germany had 543 reported cases of measles.
“Measles are underestimated far too often. They are highly contagious and can even have fatal consequences,” Jens Spahn, the German Federal Minister of Health, said in a statement.
“Parents need to know: vaccinating protects their children's health.”
The resurgence of measles is largely due to poor vaccination coverage. The World Health Organization (WHO) argues that vaccination coverage of 95 percent of the population with two separate doses of the MRR vaccine is necessary to effectively prevent a mass outbreak. While Germany's rate of the first MMR vaccination is actually above this mark, the rate of the second MMR vaccination falls slightly short.
As you can imagine, the bill’s journey through parliament has been divisive. The Guardian reports that the law was fiercely criticized by the German Green Party, who support vaccinations, but argue the current problem lies in misinformation and a lack of knowledge. The move has also sparked a hot public debate about state control and freedom of choice.
“My idea of freedom does not stop at my level as an individual... it is also a question of whether I am unnecessarily putting others at risk," said health minister Spahn, according to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
“Freedom also means that I will not be unnecessarily put at risk and that is precisely why, from the point of view of preserving freedom, this law is a good law, because it protects freedom and health.”