German government backs mandatory measles vaccine – anti-vaxxers weep

Good news for those of us who want to stop vaccine-preventable diseases – the German government has backed a bill for a mandatory measles vaccine for all children entering school or kindergarten. I’m sure the science-denying anti-vaccine crowd in Germany are angry

If the German parliament approves the bill, which is almost certain, parents will have to provide evidence that their child has received the measles vaccine before they are enrolled in school. If the parents have failed to do so, they will be subject to fines up to €2,500 ($2,800).

If this bill is passed, Germany will join France and Italy as the other European countries with a mandatory vaccines law. Many other European countries have such high vaccination rates that they have little need for mandatory measles vaccine, but I’m sure they are watching carefully considering the rather large measles epidemic that has hit Europe over the past year. 

The USA does not have a Federal mandatory measles vaccine law, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia require children to be fully vaccinated (according to the CDC immunization schedule, which includes the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella) before entering school. However, many states allow so-called “personal belief exemptions,” which allow parents to easily skip some or all vaccines based on whatever they want.

mandatory measles vaccine
German beer. Won’t do anything about measles. Photo by Stephan Mahlke on Unsplash

As a result, some states have either implemented or are considering strict laws to make certain that children entering school are fully vaccinated. California, Maine, New York, Washington, Mississippi, and West Virginia have mostly eliminated personal belief exemptions, only allowing medical exemptions, where the child has some contraindications to some vaccines. The German law also does the same – it only allows medical exemptions.

The German state of Brandenburg recently passed its own law instituting a mandatory measles vaccine for children entering kindergarten. The state government was concerned about Brandenburg’s relatively low measles vaccination rate, 72.5%, far below the 92.9% rate for the whole country.

The German government was motivated to consider a law because of pockets of anti-vaccine parents (like in the USA) along with Europe’s aforementioned measles epidemic. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,  Germany has reported 429 measles cases for 2019 through June 14.
 
This bears repeating. The measles is easily prevented by a vaccine.
 

A quick measles primer

Measles (also called rubeola, not to be confused with rubella, or German measles, which despite its name, isn’t the issue in Germany) is a respiratory disease caused by the measles virus. Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.

The virus is spread through respiration (contact with fluids from an infected person’s nose and mouth, either directly or through aerosol transmission), and is highly contagious — 90% of people without immunity sharing living space with an infected person will catch it.

There are no specific treatments for the disease. There are no miracle preventions.

The oft-repeated, and highly inaccurate, claim that vitamin A supplements can cure or prevent measles completely misses the mark. It’s important to supplement with vitamin A to prevent blindness as a result of measles, but it doesn’t reduce mortality or prevent some neurological issues. Moreover, it is most useful in children with vitamin A deficiency, not exactly a major issue in well-fed children in developed countries.

Mandatory cute pet photo. A German Shepherd of course. Photo by Tahoe Beetschen on Unsplash
 

Why do we need mandatory measles vaccine?

Which leads me to remind everyone that measles is not a harmless disease, despite the false claims of the anti-vaccine religion. According to the CDC, some of the many measles complications are:

  • 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 early in life (which is in direct opposition of claims by anti-vaccine activists that it helps “boost” the immune system.
  • About 1-2 children, out of 1000 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 virusThe 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.

These measles complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old (usually those with lapsed immunity).

Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

There is only one good way to prevent measles unless you want your child to live in a hermetically-sealed bubble forever – get the MMR vaccine.

Serious complications to measles can be as high as 3 out of every 10 children who get the disease. Serious complications from the MMR vaccine is approximately 1 out of every 1 million vaccine doses. The benefit to risk calculation is way over on the side of vaccines.

Summary

Measles is a dangerous, highly contagious disease that can permanently harm or even kill healthy children. It is not a disease that should be ignored.

The German mandatory measles vaccine law is what needs to be done to protect the children of the country. It is great that Germany is taking this step – I’m sure other countries will do the same.

Vaccines save lives. And the German government knows this and is moving to make sure every child is protected.

 

Yes, vaccine herd immunity works – scientific evidence supports this fact

herd immunity

This piece is a summary of Herd Immunity and Immunization Policy: The Importance of Accuracy, published in v. 94 of the Oregon Law Review.

As a bit of background, in an article that was published in the Oregon Law Review in 2014, authors Mary Holland and Chase E Zachary claimed that school immunization mandates are inappropriate because they reject the concept that herd immunity works.

This article will explain why Holland and Zachary’s analysis or immunization mandates and herd effect is simply incorrect. And let’s be clear – there is a legitimate debate about whether school immunization mandates are appropriate, policy-wise, as a response to non-vaccination.

Unlike vaccine science, the appropriate policy to handle non-immunization is not agreed upon, and the data on what is the right way to get people to vaccinate is anything but clear (though some things are clear – for example, harder to get exemptions lead to higher vaccination rates). But the debate needs to be premised on accurate facts – not on misuse of legal terms and incorrect scientific data. Holland and Zachary’s article does not provide that. Continue reading “Yes, vaccine herd immunity works – scientific evidence supports this fact”

Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 2

natural news

Natural News has had a long history of vaccine denial, which always garners laughter from the scientific skeptic crowd. Occasionally, however, Natural News takes its anti-science beliefs to a whole new level, one that requires a double-pronged rebuttal and refutation.

Recently, Natural News published an article that criticizes mandatory vaccinations of healthcare workers both from the scientific and legal point of view.  In that article, Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – again.

This article is the second part of a two-part series about that Natural News article, examining some of the legal issues of mandatory vaccination. Part 1 examines where Natural News gets the science wrong about mandatory vaccination. Continue reading “Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 2”

Italy mandates vaccines – another country protects its children

Italy mandates vaccines

Like what happened in France a few weeks ago, the parliament in Italy mandates vaccines for its children. Italy’s parliament gave final approval to mandating a list of childhood vaccinations for school children up to the age of 16. The goal of the legislation was to counter the anti-vaccine trend that Italian officials have attributed to misinformation.

Under these new requirements, parents must present proof of vaccinations to gain admission into preschools, while parents of children of mandatory school age face fines of up to €500 (US$591) for noncompliance. The requirements cover 10 vaccinations, including diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. Two vaccines were dropped from an initial list of 12 – meningococcal B and meningococcal C.

During the parliamentary debate, Italian health officials faced a measles outbreak that caused the US to issue a travel warning. In addition, a scandal arose in northern Italy that involved a nurse who claimed for years to have vaccinated children but had not.

Of course, anti-vaccine activists protested outside of the parliament building using some fo the same tropes and myths pushed by those groups in the USA. In California, anti-vaccine protests were a regular event while the state legislature was considering SB277 which, in effect, mandated vaccines for the state’s children.

At the same time, the top Italian court once again found that there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Of course, science has found no correlation between vaccines and autism.

The Italian parliament was convinced by data that showed only 85.3% of Italian 2 years had been vaccinated in 2015. this is well short of the 95% herd effect threshold that is recommended by many public health agencies.

Furthermore, there were 3,232 cases of measles in Italy between January and June of 2017. This is a significant increase over the 478 cases during the same period 2016.

Governments, like France and Italy, have no choice but to reject the anti-science beliefs of segments of the population, and subsequently they mandated vaccines to protect children from diseases that can kill. Maybe if Italy had mandated these vaccines a few years ago, the children who died from measles would be alive now, sharing wonderful lives with their parents.

Right now, only California, West Virginia and Mississippi, in the United States,  eliminate all personal belief exemptions and mandate that children must be fully vaccinated before entering school. West Virginia and Mississippi have some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and even after just one year, California’s rates are way up.

I hope that this is the early part of the trend to make vaccines mandatory. There simply is no reasonable evidence that vaccines are anything but safe and effective. Most of the reasons used by the anti-vaccine crowd is easily debunked with the simplest of scientific reasoning.

The trend to mandate vaccines are not examples of government overreach. They are attempts for cooler heads to prevail over the myths and lies pushed by those opposed to vaccines. They are attempts to make certain our children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

Poll–Mandatory vaccination and informed consent

kirk-and-spock-needs-quote

Professor Dorit Reiss has written another wonderful article here clarifying that there really is a lack of conflict between so-called “informed consent” and public health mandates to keep citizens (especially children) safe from infectious diseases. It could not be clearer (at least to me) that informed consent does not trump the needs of the greater good.

In the Star Trek Movie, the Wrath of Khan, Spock and Kirk had this conversation:

Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one.

So here’s a poll. Vote early. Vote often.


Seven states mulling legislation to skip mandatory immunizations

In a report in Vaccine NewsDaily, seven states mulling legislation to skip mandatory immunizations, which would allow parents a “philosophical exemption” to mandatory vaccinations.  In other words, this legislation would allow parents who listen to the anti-vaccination lunatics to refuse vaccines that prevent harm to their children, but worse yet harm to others who may not be immune to these infections.

[pullquote]measles cases in the nonexempt population increases significantly when exposed to an exemptor group[/pullquote] Continue reading “Seven states mulling legislation to skip mandatory immunizations”

Colorado health officials mulling mandatory vaccinations

Colorado health officials mulling mandatory vaccinations | Vaccine News Daily.

Healthcare workers should be obligated to receive influenza vaccinations, mainly because they can be a nexus of spreading of the disease.  I personally don’t get why a healthcare worker should invent non-evidence based excuses for not getting the vaccine (I’ve heard them all), but it happens.

That the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons opposes this law is because it is a politically conservative group of physicians.  They’re opposed to mandatory vaccinations of any kind (even children), don’t support Medicare and Medicaid , even considering it evil and immoral, and are, of course, deeply opposed to Obama’s health care plan. I don’t care that there are conservative physicians, but I expect them to use evidence-based decision when dealing with medical and healthcare policy questions.  This group is incapable of evidence-based thinking.  Personally, I wouldn’t visit a physician who belonged to this group.

Nevertheless, if you observe Association of American Physicians and Surgeons opposing anything in healthcare, be very skeptical.  Extremely skeptical.