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How growing numbers of EU countries are making vaccines mandatory

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How growing numbers of EU countries are making vaccines mandatory
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Will Germany join the growing numbers of EU countries that are making vaccinations mandatory in a bid to tackle measles and other disease outbreaks?

Its health minister has proposed a fine of €2,500 for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against measles as part of an effort to eradicate the disease.

In an interview transcript posted to the German government's website on Sunday, Jens Spahn proposed kindergarten bans and fines as part of a legislative proposal for mandatory vaccinations.

In Germany, as in some other European countries, vaccine policies are changing after a resurgence of the highly contagious disease, measles.

It killed 72 children and adults in the European region last year as cases increased significantly.

There were 82,596 cases of measles in 2018 compared with 25,863 in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

Most cases, said WHO, were concentrated in Ukraine. But France and Italy also ranked highly in the region.

Measles is highly contagious and particularly harmful towards babies and children with weak immune systems. It causes infection with symptoms of high fever and a rash on the body. In some cases, it can cause blindness, brain swelling or even death.

Although European countries signed the European Vaccine Action Plan with the goal of stopping measles and rubella from spreading by 2015, the number of cases has only gone up, despite increases in overall immunisations.

Governments are now deciding whether or not to require vaccinations for adults and children. The measles vaccine is only mandatory in 11 EU countries. The others recommend it rather than require it.

EU countries that do not have any vaccination requirements include:

  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Estonia
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Ireland
  • Luxembourg
  • Portugal
  • Germany

Amongst those with the highest vaccine requirements include France, Italy, and Greece, which all recently changed their vaccination policies in response to the measles outbreak.

Common vaccines that countries with mandatory vaccinations require include diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland all require babies to be vaccinated against tuberculosis in addition to several others.

As of 2018, France’s vaccination requirement jumped from three to 11. Greece updated its vaccination policy in 2019. The Italian government began requiring vaccines in 2017.

Germany now appears to be following suit.

“In a free country I have to be able to rely on the fact that my counterpart does not endanger me unnecessarily," the German Health Minister said on Sunday. "That, too, is a condition of freedom.”