The so-called “anti-vaxxer” movement is one where parents choose not to have their children vaccinated due to the supposed risks involved. But with a measles outbreak spreading quickly across Europe, the German government announced that it will be fining parents who don’t have their children vaccinated, new reports claimed earlier in the week.
According to Vice, the new German law will go into effect on June 1 and will require kindergartners to report parents who deliberately disregard their doctor’s advice that their children be vaccinated. Parents found in violation of this upcoming law may be fined up to 2,500 euros, or about $2,800 in U.S. currency.
In a statement made to the Bild newspaper, German health minister Hermann Groehe underscored the importance of the law, what with anti-vaxxer parents still prevalent despite the potentially fatal nature of certain childhood diseases.
“Nobody can be indifferent to the fact that people are still dying of measles. That’s why we are tightening up regulations on vaccination.”
The new German reforms aren’t unique in Europe, as the continent continues to suffer through a measles outbreak, which officials have blamed largely on anti-vaxxer parents who, following the ongoing trend, choose not to have their children get vaccinated. Vice wrote that the Italian government made 12 vaccines for school-age children mandatory, also in response to the aforementioned measles outbreak.
At the moment, there have been more than 2,000 measles cases reported in Europe in 2017, which is, even with the year not yet halfway done, eight times the statistics recorded for the whole of 2015. In Italy, the rate of children under the age of 2-years-old receiving measles jabs has dropped to only 85 percent; that, as Vice noted, is significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s official guidance of 95 percent at that age.
For the past several years, the anti-vaccination, or anti-vaxxer movement has been gaining traction due to the belief that vaccines may cause autism, though fear and concern over vaccines, in general, is something that has been around for more than a century. Yet experts have warned that this year in specific may be the year that the anti-vaccination movement “wins,” thereby leading to outbreaks of measles and other childhood diseases, as the New York Times opined earlier this year.
Even if a notorious study associating vaccines with a higher risk of autism was ultimately retracted, with its author, Andrew Wakefield, banned from practicing medicine as a result, the anti-vaxxer movement has kept marching on. Vice wrote about a case from earlier this month, where anti-vaccine guidance made its way through a Somali community in Minnesota. This resulted in the state’s largest measles outbreak in several years.
The World Health Organization’s measles fact sheet describes the disease as a “highly contagious,” potentially serious condition, one that had killed about 2.6 million people per year as of 1980, prior to the widespread availability of measles jabs. In a 15-year span from 2000 to 2015, measles vaccines reduced death rates in sufferers by close to 80 percent, though there were still about 134,200 people, mostly children 5-years-old or younger, who died from the disease in 2015. While most sufferers recover within a week or two, the disease could potentially result in complications such as blindness and encephalitis.
Meanwhile, the anti-vaxxer problem is pretty much the same in Europe, according to a report from Reuters. Experts believe that public distrust of vaccines could be driven by fears of supposed side effects, and doctors themselves being hesitant to prescribe the jabs to children.
Germany’s upcoming reforms wouldn’t be the first in recent weeks to crack down on the anti-vaxxer trend in an effort to stem the measles outbreak. Reuters wrote that a German court ruled last week that a father had the right to have his child vaccinated despite the mother’s objections, “because it was in the child’s (best) interest.”
[Featured Image by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]