Parents in Germany could now face a fine of thousands of dollars if they don’t vaccinate their school-age children against measles.

The law, which takes effect in March 2020, mandates that parents will have to prove their children aged 6 and older, as well as children seeking to attend preschool, have been vaccinated against measles. Parents could face up to $2,750 in fines if they don’t comply, The New York Times reported.

Child protection law

Germany’s parliament passed a law on the 13th of November, 2019, indicating that parents will be fined 2,000 euros (approximately 2,700 US dollars) if they don’t vaccinate their children. In addition, children will not be allowed to attend schools, pre-schools, daycare, community centers, holiday camps, or medical facilities unless their parents can provide proof of vaccination.

The German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, said the law was necessary to protect children. “A measles infection is an unnecessary threat in 2019,” he is quoted by The Guardian as saying.

Herd immunity

Vaccinations are extremely safe, but in order for them to provide excellent protection against a disease, at least 95% of the population has to be vaccinated against any given disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Germany, an estimated 93% of young children are properly vaccinated, but despite this relatively high rate, the number of measles cases has been rising steadily over the last few years, with over 500 cases in Germany reported so far in 2019.

Measles outbreaks have been spreading like wildfire, primarily caused by parents refusing to vaccinate their children. For example, in Great Britain, only around 83% of children are properly vaccinated, while in the US it averages around 91% but some localities in the US have very low vaccination uptake rates.

Airborne transmission

Hispanic boy getting a shot at doctor’s office

As the WHO points out, measles is one of the most infectious diseases known. Unlike most diseases that require direct contact with a recently contaminated surface, it is airborne. A single infected person can cough in a hallway, and everyone who walks through the hallway in the next two hours can theoretically become infected.

Millions of deaths prevented

Prior to invention of the measles vaccine in 1963, in the US, there were around 4 million cases of the disease every year, among which 48,000 people required hospitalization and around 500 died. Worldwide, prior to vaccination campaigns, measles is estimated to have killed around 2.6 million people, mostly young children, every single year.

The vaccine against measles, the MMR vaccine, also protects against mumps and rubella. The CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR, one shortly after their first birthday and the second between four and six years of age.

The topic of whether vaccines should be mandatory or a parent’s choice can be divisive; consider discussing this story with your friends and co-workers to get their take on the issue.

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