German parents who don’t vaccinate their children against measles could be fined up to €2,500 (about $2,800), if a new law proposed by Health Minister Jens Spahn goes through.
As The Guardian reports, the new law would take effect in March 2020 if passed. It would require any child to be vaccinated against measles before being enrolled in a “nursery” — that is, a daycare center — or school. All teachers, as well as employees of hospitals or medical practices, would be required to provide proof that they are vaccinated as well.
As recently as a couple of generations ago, very few parents in the First World declined to vaccinate their children. However, thanks to the so-called “anti-vax” movement, the number of parents who don’t vaccinate their kids has grown exponentially. The results of that are becoming alarmingly clear, as diseases once considered all but eradicated — measles, in particular — are making a comeback. For example, as CNN reports, there have been over 600 cases of measles reported in the U.S. so far in 2019. In 2010, by comparison, there were 63.
The anti-vax movement gained steam following a 1998 paper published in The Lancet by now-discredited physician Andrew Wakefield. The paper, which has also since been discredited, claimed, based on faulty research, that there was a link between vaccines and autism. The medical and public health communities insist to this day that there is no connection between the two.
This map shows the geographic distribution of #measles cases in the US this year. As large numbers seen in Clark County, New York & Michigan illustrate, outbreaks of this highly contagious disease can mushroom in pockets of low immunization coverage. https://t.co/NRD3jvvWxb pic.twitter.com/FcaoRt6rfb— Seth Berkley (@GaviSeth) May 5, 2019
The growing number of measles cases, particularly in the First World, has governments and the medical community concerned, to put it mildly. The disease, once considered all but eradicated, is rarely fatal in adults but can be particularly virulent in children under the age of 5.
Back in Germany, Spahn wants to get ahead of the curve. The country has a 93 percent vaccination rate, just a couple of points short of the 95 percent that the World Health Organization says is required to prevent mass outbreaks.
“All parents should be safe in the knowledge that their children cannot be infected with and endangered by measles… I want to wipe out measles,” he said.
Spahn’s proposal is getting mixed reactions in Germany.
Social Democratic Union leader Andrea Nahles, for example, wants to make vaccines mandatory, although what is meant by that, and how it would work out in practice, remains unclear. However, Green Party politician Kordula Schulz-Asche says that education about vaccines, rather than government force, is the best way to address the problem.
“Spahn should focus on convincing people … instead of coercing them,” she said.