Germany introduces vaccination requirements following increased measles outbreaks

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who ran for the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) last December, has proposed a 2,500 Euro fine for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against measles. He said, “In a free country I have to be able to rely on the fact that my counterpart does not endanger me unnecessarily. That, too, is a condition of freedom.”

The proposed kindergarten bans and fines are part of a legislative proposal for mandatory vaccinations and part of an effort to eradicate the disease. Although European countries signed the European Vaccine Action Plan with the goal of stopping measles and rubella from spreading by 2015, the number of cases has only gone up, despite increases in overall immunizations.

Measles is highly contagious, especially for babies and children with weak immune systems. It causes infection with symptoms of high fever and a rash on the body and can also cause blindness, brain swelling, and death. Last year, measles killed 72 children and adults across Europe and cases have increased significantly. According to the World Health Organization, there were 82,596 cases of measles in 2018 compared with 25,863 in 2017. The majority of cases were in Ukraine, and France and Italy also ranked highly.

Vaccine policies in several European countries, including Germany, are changing after a resurgence of the highly contagious disease. Governments are now deciding whether or not to require vaccinations for adults and children. The measles vaccine is only mandatory in 11 EU countries and recommended, rather than required, others. EU countries that do not have any vaccination requirements include Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, and Luxembourg.

France, Italy, and Greece have the highest vaccine requirements and all recently changed their vaccination policies in response to the measles outbreak. In 2018, France’s vaccination requirement increased from 3 to 11, the Italian government began requiring vaccines in 2017, and Greece updated its vaccination policy in 2019.

Countries with mandatory vaccinations often require several common vaccines including for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, and rubella. Babies to required be vaccinated against tuberculosis in addition to several others in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland.