The health minister of Germany has presented a proposal for introducing fines for parents who have not vaccinated their children against measles. Those who refuse to immunize their children will be fined up to 2,500 euros ($2,800)—introducing measles vaccination as mandatory throughout the country. With this policy, the government aims to achieve their goal of eradicating measles.
Measles is extremely contagious virus that is deadly to children. One in 1,000 children who contract the disease will die; in 2017, it was responsible for the death of 110,000 people around the world, most of which were unvaccinated children. Because the virus is so contagious, about 95% of people in a community need to receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in order to eradicate the disease from the area. Unfortunately, with the rise of anti-vaccination lobbying and spread of misinformation online, not all parents immunize their children.
Minister Jens Spahn argues for the necessity of the bill by comparing it to fines for speeding. The idea is that not immunizing one’s children is a reckless action that must be punished, much like driving over the speed limit. The proposed bill will be presented to Parliament later this year, and if passed, it would take effect early 2020. Under the bill, toddlers who are not immunized will not be allowed to attend preschool. In German law, school attendance is mandated for children aged six, so kids who have been barred from school are those not vaccinated and parents have to pay up.
In the past, authorities attempted to encourage people to vaccinate their kids through information campaigns. However, the recent outbreaks proved that more stern measures need to be in place if measles is to be eradicated from the country.
In developed countries, the death rate for those who contract measles is not very high, but this does not mean that parents should neglect their kids’ vaccinations. The virus can still cause complications like blindness and seizures, and carriers of the virus can easily give it to more physically vulnerable kids who cannot get vaccinated. The concept of herd immunity will only work if most are responsible about immunization.