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Germany: Berlin Bundestag Approves Compulsory Measles Vaccination

The Bundestag approved a mandatory measles vaccination today. An increasing number of measles cases lead to this step. And there is another big problem.

Against the extremist right-wing ‘AfD’, and with many abstentions, the Berlin Bundestag approved a law making measles vaccinations for children mandatory. Parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated may be fined. Children of certain ages without this kind of vaccination will not be accepted at kindergartens or schools.

Long Discussion

In Germany, mandatory vaccinations against measles have been discussed for a long time now. The problem is that the number of measles cases has increased substantially since 2016. Also there is a growing number of so-called vaccination opponents among parents.

Many parents either forget their children’s vaccination dates or reject vaccinations. Opponents often cite religious reasons (“God will protect my children”) or they believe conspiracy theories about vaccinations they read on the Internet.

While dismissing scientific evidence, those parents are not only endangering their own children, but others as well, most experts believe. Also they might be preventing an extinction of measles, a serious illness which can make children mentally disabled and even kill.

Spahn’s Draft Law

Health Minister Jens Spahn was the driving forces behind the draft legislation. On Thursday, he said at the Bundestag, the last compulsory vaccination in federal states in western Germany, against smallpox, had been approved in 1874. Since, that disease had been eradicated. He also mentioned mandatory vaccinations the GDR in 1970, in order to encourage ‘The Left’ to agree. That party is the successor of the so-called Socialist Unity Party, which ruled East Germany.

Earlier this year, Family Minister Franziska Giffey said this was about protecting children from a life-threatening illness. In her ministry, supporting mandatory vaccinations had been considered carefully. “When the risk of jeopardizing other children in kindergartens, schools and other facilities can not be minimized otherwise, the state needs to act”, Giffey stated.

Minister Spahn introduced a draft law for mandatory measles vaccinations in May. In a television interview this morning he said the vaccinations in question were against mumps and rubella as well, but measles was the most dangerous disease of the three. Therefore the legislation had concentrated on it. Spahn stated this was about the protection of children.

Number of Measles Cases

In 2001, 6198 measles cases were registered in Germany. By 2012, the number decreased to only 186, but rose again the following year. In 2018, there were 677 cases. Looking at Europe, the number of measles cases has decreased in the past four decades, from 851,849 in 1980 to about 26,000 in 2013.

According to an overwhelming majority of doctors, measles are dangerous. ‘Measles parties’, which used to be organized by many parents who wanted to make sure their children get the illness behind them as soon as possible, endanger the kids, they say. At these events the infectiousness rate is extremely high.

The first measles symptoms are comparable to those of the flu, including fever. Except the oral cavity usually looks inflamed after a few days. Later, red dots all over the body develop. Loss of appetite, pain, diarrhea, coughing and tearing eyes are part of it too.

Few Exceptions

Because of the seriousness of measles, there is a reporting obligation in Germany. Every case is being registered by the authorities.

The compulsory vaccination law will apply from March of 2020. The parents of children who already are in kindergartens or schools will have to prove their children were vaccinated by July 31st, 2021. For educators and others individuals who work with children, compulsory vaccinations will apply as well.

Only patients whose doctors confirm they can not be vaccinated for reasons having to do with their general health or other diseases will be exempt.