After a long and intensive debate the Bundestag has decided to make measles vaccinations compulsory. This will apply in day-care centers, schools, and refugee shelters, among other places. Parents who refuse to comply risk fines of up to 2500 euros.
In the future, children and staff in day-care centres and schools must be vaccinated against measles. The Bundestag has passed a law that includes punitive measures such as exclusion of children from day-care centers and parental fines. The obligation to vaccinate will also apply to childminders as well as to residents and employees of refugee shelters and health facilities.
“Protecting against measles means protecting our children”, said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) in the Bundestag. He defended the obligation to vaccinate against criticism from large sections of the opposition. Union, SPD and FDP had voted for the law in the second reading. The AfD voted against, the Greens and the Left abstained. In the final roll-call vote, 459 deputies voted for the law, 89 against and 105 abstained.
Fines of up to 2500 Euro
In concrete terms, the law provides that parents who do not vaccinate their children who attend any of the above institutions can be fined up to 2500 euros. The children can be excluded from day-care centres, but not from school because of compulsory schooling. Day-care centres, which do not look after vaccinated children, can also be punished with a fine.
Employees in community or health facilities can no longer work there if they refuse vaccination. Exceptions apply to infants under the age of one, because vaccinations are not recommended at that age, and to people who do not tolerate vaccinations.
Measles is highly contagious – and potentially life-threatening
The CDU MP and physician Rudolf Henke emphasized that the new law was not one of compulsory vaccination, but of a duty of proof for community facilities. AfD member of parliament Detlev Spangenberg replied that vaccinations must remain voluntary. MP Kordula Schulz-Asche (Greens) argued that a comprehensive vaccination strategy makes more sense than a compulsory vaccination. Left-wing politician Gesine Lötzsch advocated more vaccination advertising in schools. If soldiers could advertise for the Bundeswehr there, doctors should be able to do the same for health purposes, she said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe brain inflammation or even death. There are no drugs to treat it, so vaccination is the only way to protect oneself from it. Immunization requires two vaccinations. They are recommended between the first and second year of of infancy.
92 percent of Germans fully vaccinated
The second vaccination is not a refresher, but a repetition. The first vaccination protects 90 to 95 percent of children; the remaining five to ten percent are to be protected by the second vaccination.
According to the World Health Organization, 92 percent of people in Germany are completely vaccinated, 97 percent only received one vaccination dose. An overall protection of the population is assumed at a rate of 95 percent. Then even those who cannot be vaccinated are protected.
A survey conducted by Techniker Krankenkasse in October showed that around eleven percent of children born in 2016 were only incompletely vaccinated against measles up to their second birthday. This means that every ninth infant in Germany is not fully protected against measles up to the age recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission. According to the survey, about 7.5 percent of the children of this age group have no measles vaccination at all. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 543 measles cases were reported in 2018.