As a result of the widespread epidemic of measles in Europe and the USA, Germany has proposed a law that could fine anti-vaccine parents up to €2,500 (US$2,800) if they don’t vaccinate their children against measles. The law, if passed by the German parliament before the end of 2019, will take effect on 1 March 2022.
The law would make the MMR vaccine mandatory for all children attending nurseries and schools. It would also make it mandatory for all teachers, educators, and medical staff at hospitals and outpatient clinics.
Furthermore, the law requires that, by July 2020, parents registering their children for kindergartens or schools would need to either provide evidence that their children have received the measles vaccine (and possibly other vaccines, but I was unable to determine whether it would include all recommended vaccines) or have definitive proof of a medical exemption.
And this law is not going to affect only a small number of German anti-vaccine parents. According to the German Ministry of Health, there are approximately 361,000 non-vaccinated children along with about 220,000 adults (who would be covered by the new law).
The proposed law has broad support across political parties in Germany, except the left-wing Green Party which, of course, represents a large group of anti-vaccine parents. The Green Party candidate for the US President in 2016 was notoriously anti-vaccine, despite being a licensed physician.
All about measles
Measles is caused by the measles virus, a highly contagious disease that is easily transmitted to non-vaccinated children just from one infected person.
- About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications.
- Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
- Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
- Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
- As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.
- About 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, deafness, and other long-term neurological deficits.
- A measles infection can result in short- and long-term immune system dysfunction which can leave the child susceptible to other diseases.
- About 1-2 children who contract measles may develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare chronic, progressive encephalitis that affects primarily children and young adults– it is caused by a persistent infection of the measles virus. The disease starts with measles infection, usually before the age of 2 years, followed by approximately 6-15 asymptomatic years. Some researchers think the asymptomatic period is around 5-8 years after the initial disease. Gradually, the disease progresses with psychological and neurological deterioration, which can include personality changes, seizures, and coma. It is always ultimately fatal.
- And sadly, for every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it.
This isn’t overstating the dangers of measles. It’s a fact-based scientific analysis of the dangerous complications of a disease we thought was gone long ago.
And it can only be prevented with the MMR vaccine – a very safe vaccine. And a vaccine that has never been linked to autism, despite the lies and tropes of the anti-vaccine world.
Anti-vaccine parents meet the real world
Sadly, ignorant parents in New York City are risking their children’s lives by taking them to “measles parties” to get a “natural” immunity to the dangerous disease. They do this because they believe in ridiculous myths like “measles prevents cancer” or “measles prevents cardiovascular disease.”
No, they don’t.
So, public health officials are turning to legislation to protect children against these diseases. France and Italy now fine anti-vaccine parents. California passed SB277 to eliminate so-called personal belief exemptions. And because of widespread abuse of medical exemptions by ignorant parents, California is proposing even tougher laws. And New York City has mandated the MMR vaccine in response to a dangerous measles epidemic spawned by anti-vaccine parents.
This proposed German law is tough, something that should be implemented throughout the USA and Europe. It’s a significant fine. It mandates vaccines for children entering school and almost everyone else that works with children.
We shouldn’t be at the place where we need to punish anti-vaccine parents for their pseudoscientific beliefs. But they’re putting children at risk of a dangerous disease, and so we’re at the point where the German government has to take a stand to protect their children.