Jens Spahn, Germany’s minister of health, has submitted for the government’s consideration a bill that includes a fine of up to 2,500 euros, or roughly $2,800, for parents who don’t vaccinate their school-age children against measles.
The point of the legislation, Spahn said, “is not to fine people. The goal is to ensure that people are immunized.”
The draft bill would bar very young children who have not been vaccinated from preschool, and with school mandatory for German children beginning at age 6, parents with unvaccinated children would be required to pay the fine. Spahn’s legislation is a national-level replication of ongoing local efforts: Last month, the northeastern state of Brandenburg became the first to introduce mandatory vaccinations for children attending kindergarten.
To Spahn, that’s an old debate that requires a new solution. “We have been having this debate every few months over the past 10, 20 years,” he told television broadcaster ZDF in an interview on Monday. “Whenever there is an outbreak and children or students have to be kept away from lessons, everyone says we could, we should do something — but not enough happens.”
The World Health Organization has issued yet another warning on the growing measles threat. Last month, the WHO said measles cases were up 300 percent so far in 2019 compared with the first quarter of 2018; on Tuesday, the United Nations health agency noted that over 34,000 people in Europe in the first two months of 2019 had caught measles.
Most of those cases are in Ukraine, which is in the throes of a measles outbreak that reportedly spread from Ukraine to Israel. Over 25,000 people in Ukraine were infected in the first two months of 2019.
Germany, which had over 500 cases of measles in all of 2018, has seen 300 so far this year.
Measles is highly contagious, but also entirely preventable — provided people get vaccinated. Most measles cases are in un- or under-vaccinated people (the vaccine involves two doses).
The WHO warned Europeans on Tuesday. “If outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread to additional countries within and beyond the region,” the organization said in a statement.