Brandenburg introduces first mandatory state-wide measles law

Authorities say 2019 likely to be a record year for measles with cases tripling in three states

A 1998 medical paper, since discounted as having no basis in fact, suggested a link between the measles vaccine and autism. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A 1998 medical paper, since discounted as having no basis in fact, suggested a link between the measles vaccine and autism. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Brandenburg has become Germany’s first state parliament to pass a law excluding children who have not been vaccinated against measles from kindergartens.

On Thursday evening the state parliament in Potsdam passed an obligatory vaccination law by a wide majority, ordering the state government to legislate.

The parliament said it would examine whether to add other vaccinations to the ban and join efforts to introduce a similar ban at federal level, making it obligatory in all 16 states.

“Measles remains one of the most dangerous childhood diseases,” the motion reads, noting vaccination as an important preventative measure.

As well as making the measles vaccine compulsory for a place at kindergarten, the cross-party motion calls for greater access to vaccination facilities and a new campaign about the risks of measles.   

“In the public interest, individual concerns towards vaccination, which cannot be proven scientifically, must take second place,” said Sylvia Lehmann of the local Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The highest number of cases of measles in German in recent years was 6,039 in 2001. Last year saw just 543 cases but authorities say 2019 is likely to be a record year with cases tripling in three German states, including Berlin, encircled by Brandenburg.

Nationwide debate

As discussions continue on a nationwide vaccine obligation, many schools and kindergartens have acted on their own, telling non-vaccinated students and staff to stay away. On Wednesday the Austrian city of Klagenfurt cancelled its bus service to disinfect all 60 vehicles after a driver contracted measles.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases recommends having children vaccinated against measles in the first two years: once between months 11 and 14 and the second time between 15 and 23 months. In Brandenburg just 73.5 per cent of children achieve this recommended level of vaccination.

As in other countries, a minority of German parents are wary of having their children vaccinated, fearing side effects. A 1998 medical paper, since discounted as having no basis in fact, suggested a link between the measles vaccine and autism.

Many studies since have found no such link, the most recent a long-term Danish study released last month.

The World Health Organisation said more Europeans contracted measles last year – 82,600 – than at any time in the last decade.

In Brandenburg only the Green Party abstained from the vaccine vote, while the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) voted against, noting that a vaccine obligation last existed in East Germany.