German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), are considering making the measles vaccination compulsory for children nationwide, according to media reports on Monday.
The reports have come amid a concerning spike in the number of measles cases in Germany, where parents are increasingly opting not to vaccinate their children. Health authorities warn that further outbreaks are likely on the horizon.
Backing for vaccine requirement:
- The SPD has spearheaded the push for the measles vaccine requirement.
- SPD health policy spokesman Karl Lauterbach said he discussed the move with Health Minister Jens Spahn, according to the newspapers of the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
- Lauterbach said he is "confident that we will soon be able to present a proposal."
- The Health Ministry is concerned about the rise in measles cases and welcomes "a debate about possible solutions."
'Counter-productive' or responsible move?
Opposition parties in Germany are split over the move, with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) backing mandatory vaccinations for children up to the age of 14.
"Not vaccinating your children is irresponsible with respect to your own child's welfare and also towards people who cannot be vaccinated themselves for health reasons," Michael Theurer, the deputy head of the FDP in parliament, told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
Pushback has come from the Greens, who say they support vaccines, but are skeptical about requiring them.
Kordula Schulz-Asche, the Greens health policy spokeswoman, said the government should do more to inform parents about vaccines rather than punish them, and to specifically remind them about the follow-up vaccine that is needed to ensure complete protection from the virus.
"Compulsory vaccinations are therefore counter-productive," Schulz-Asche told public broadcaster ZDF. "We need a better public health service."
What happens if you're infected? The measles viruscauses a telltale itchy, red rash that spreads all over the body. The virus also causes a fever and a cough, and can also lead to pneumonia, severe diarrhea and in some cases, meningitis. The measles virus is highly contagious, and also life-threatening. Some complications from the disease can take years to appear.
Concern over rising cases: Germany saw some 1,000 cases of measles in 2017, with one person dying from the disease that year. Around 40 percent of the people infected had to be treated in a hospital.
Due to the outbreaks, the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine recently strongly recommended compulsory measles vaccinations. The World Health Organization has also named the anti-vaccination movement as one of the 10 largest global health risks. In 2017, there were 23,927 cases of measles in Europe — the previous year saw just 5,273 infections.
rs/rt (AFP, dpa, KNA)