Germany is taking a tough stance against parents who don’t vaccinate their children in a bid to stem the outbreak of measles and other preventable diseases currently on the rise throughout Europe.
The German government is set to enact a law on June 1 that will require kindergartens to report parents who fail to follow vaccination guidelines to the authorities. Under the law, parents who do not provide their kindergartens with evidence that they’ve received advice from a doctor about vaccinating their children could face charges of up to 2,500 euros (equivalent to about $2,800). Though the German government strongly recommends that parents vaccinate their children, vaccinations remain voluntary. But some politicians have suggested that mandatory vaccination is on the way if concerted efforts to encourage vaccinations don’t work.
“Nobody can be indifferent to the fact that people are still dying of measles,” German health minister Hermann Gröehe told the Bild newspaper, according to Reuters. “That’s why we are tightening up regulations on vaccination.”
German courts also recently ruled that a father could have his child vaccinated over the opposition of the mother.
Countries across Europe have started taking greater measures to counteract a measles outbreak that’s partly attributable to a trend among parents to not vaccinate their children. This month, Italy made 12 vaccines compulsory among school-age children as a way to counteract a recent measles epidemic. More than 2,000 cases have been reported so far in 2017, eight times the number of total cases reported in 2015. Vaccinations for the virus have fallen off in Italy, with only 85 percent of children under the age of 2 receiving the vaccine, well below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 95 percent.
The trend of parents forgoing common childhood vaccines due to misinformation or distrust has stirred alarm among the medical and scientific community and is growing global health issue. One of the central culprits of this dangerous trend can be sourced back to a widely discredited and retracted 1998 study that claimed a common childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and other diseases could cause autism. The author of that retracted study, Andrew Wakefield, was barred from practicing medicine in Britain in 2010, both on scientific and ethical grounds.
Yet despite the mountains of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism and are in fact safe, a cohort of parents in the U.S. and Europe continue to refuse common vaccinations for their children — often putting other children at risk of outbreaks. Earlier this month, advice pushed by anti-vaccine groups not to vaccinate children spread through a Somali community in Minnesota leading to the state’s largest measles outbreak in years. In Romania, doctors are coping with a measles outbreak that has recorded nearly 5,000 cases and 21 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In March, WHO was forced to issue a warning about Europe’s surging measles outbreak.
“With steady progress towards elimination over the past 2 years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab said.