Germany is well on its way with establishing a new law that will compulsorily make parents give their children the needed measles vaccine — aiming to combat the resurging of the disease in the country.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided Wednesday, July 17, that they will pass the Measles Protection Act, which was adopted July 19.
“Whether in kindergarten, at the childminder or at school, we want to protect all children against measles infection,” Jens Spahn, Germany’s Health Minister, said in a statement.
“Measles is extremely contagious and can take a very nasty, at times deadly, turn,” the Minister added.
The new law will require all German children to take the recommended vaccine shots before admission to kindergarten or school next year or before March 1, 2020.
The law is also mandatory over adults or staff working in daycare centers or other educational institutions.
Furthermore, parents will have to prove that their children have been vaccinated before entering school or kindergarten through a vaccination certificate called “Kinderuntersuchungsheft,” which is a special booklet that parents fill out, documenting their child’s vaccines or by a medical certificate that shows that the child already had measles.
Reluctance or violating the law will receive a fine of up to 2,500 euros ($2,800) under the bill that is expected to pass quickly through the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
“We want to protect as many children as possible from measles infection,” said Health Minister Spahn, who is aiming for at least 95 percent coverage.
While 97 percent of German children had their first dose, the percentage that received the second dose dropped to 93 percent. Furthermore, some regions fall short on the desired quota at the federal level. The vaccination rate against measles in Germany is currently at 92.9 percent, but it has been falling in recent years.
Through this new law, German authorities hope to bump their coverage well above 95 percent, the level recommended by the World Health Organization to achieve a sturdy “herd immunity” against measles.
Furthermore, the new law also applies to doctors and other adults working in a community or medical facilities. In accordance, they too will also need to prove that they have had the required vaccinations. On top of that, the bill will also require asylum seekers and refugees to prove their vaccination status if they move into community accommodation.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that global efforts to increase immunization coverage against deadly diseases are stagnating and is significantly contributing to the resurgence of measles worldwide.
Last year, 350,000 cases of measles were reported, more than double the number for 2017. In the same year, the most recent year for which estimates are available, measles killed close to 110,000 people.
In the first quarter of 2019, the number of reported measles cases globally increased fourfold as compared to the same period last year. The WHO has deemed vaccine hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — a top 10 threat to global health this year.
The resurgence of the disease also relates to the hesitation and fear in developed countries, with the United States taking the lead on the highest rate of reported cases.
Particularly for Europe, who saw a large influx in measles cases, witnessed 82,596 new cases of measles in 2018 — a staggering 15 times the record low in 2016.
Germany was among the worst affected countries, with around 651 new measles cases being reported to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and in the first months of this year, there are already more than 400 cases that have been reported.
The report comes after Germany’s efforts of making vaccinations compulsory at a regional level in the state of Brandenburg. Today the country is making a full swing against the disease by enforcing the law throughout the country.
The law will still need the approval of the German parliament. But the large government majority is seemingly supportive of the move and is expected to pass without difficulty. However, the law is criticized by the Greens, who felt the vaccines should be encouraged, but not mandatory.
The resurgence of the disease in some countries has been blamed on the so-called “anti-vax” movement, which is largely based on a 1998 publication linking the measles vaccine and autism that has since been debunked.
Also faced with an increasing number of measle outbreaks, a handful of other countries around the world have introduced mandatory vaccinations, including France, Italy, and Australia.