Non-vaccinated children may be excluded from German state schools

Measles wave across country prompts calls for MMR vaccine to be made obligatory

 Germany has active parent groups who oppose vaccination, citing concerns over a link to autism in a 1998 medical study, since withdrawn. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany has active parent groups who oppose vaccination, citing concerns over a link to autism in a 1998 medical study, since withdrawn. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Germany’s federal minister for health is examining whether to exclude from state schools and kindergartens all children not vaccinated against measles and other illnesses.

A measles wave among German children has prompted Jens Spahn, of chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), to start talks about a ban with his Social Democratic Party (SPD) coalition partners.

“If we want, we could introduce such a rule quickly,” he said.

Cases of measles have surged so far in 2019 – tripling in three German states, including Berlin.

This has prompted schools and kindergartens to take action on their own. In the Lower Saxon city of Hildesheim, 107 non-vaccinated students and staff were told to stay away from lessons. In eastern Berlin, schoolchildren without chicken pox vaccinations were sent home. Meanwhile a kindergarten in the western city of Essen has said it will only accept vaccinated children in future.

Record year

The highest number of cases of measles in Germany in recent years was 6,039 in 2001. Last year saw just 543 cases but authorities say this is likely to be a record year.

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

Like other countries, Germany has active parent groups who oppose vaccination, citing concerns over a link to autism in a 1998 medical study, since withdrawn.

A new Danish study of 650,000 children over 10 years said: “MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”

We are convinced there are other ways to improve the vaccination quota in Berlin

The Robert Koch Institute, responsible for infectious disease monitoring and control in Germany, said the country was “not really making any progress with elimination” of measles.

Voluntary approach

Leading pediatricians in Berlin have come out in favour of making vaccinations obligatory, saying the latest wave showed that the voluntary approach had failed.

But some federal states disagree with the idea of obligatory vaccinations.

“We are convinced there are other ways to improve the vaccination quota in Berlin,” said Dilek Kolat, Berlin’s state minister for health, proposing improved access and consultation options.

It remains to be seen how German authorities would police vaccination rules. While Germans are encouraged to have yellow vaccination “passports”, no central register of vaccinations exists.

A 2016 study showed that just five of Germany’s 16 federal states achieved a 90 per cent double MMR vaccination quota, a figure that drops as low as 36 per cent in parts of Bavaria.