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Germany Passes Mandatory Measles Vaccination Law

Health + Wellness
A measure that would fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children passed Germany's parliament Thursday. Self Magazine / CC BY 2.0

A measure that would fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for measles close to $2,800 passed Germany's parliament Thursday, the Associated Press reported.


Lawmakers approved the bill 459 to 89, with 105 abstaining. The law, which will enter into effect next March, will require that parents wishing to enter their children in preschool prove that they have been vaccinated, The New York Times explained. Children at the mandatory school age of six or older must also have proof of vaccination. Parents who cannot prove this by Aug. 1, 2021 could face a fine of up to 2,500 euros (approximately $2,790), according to the Associated Press.

"A measles infection is an unnecessary threat in 2019," German health minister Jens Spahn, who drafted the legislation, said, according to The Guardian.

Spahn championed the legislation because measles has been on the rise in recent years despite the existence of the vaccine, partly because of the anti-vaccination movement. Germany has seen 501 cases so far this year, according to the Associated Press, and The Guardian reported that it saw 543 last year. In Europe as a whole, cases increased by 350 percent last year. And, in the first half of 2019, Europe saw around 90,000 cases, double the amount it had seen by the same time last year, according to The New York Times.

The German law will also require vaccinations for adults born after 1970 who work with children. Older children will need to prove they have been vaccinated by July 31, 2021, The New York Times explained.

The bill was supported by the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, according to The Guardian. The Green Party opposed the legislation because, while it supports vaccination, it thought it should be encouraged through education, not imposed by law.

Spahn, however, rejected the argument that the law infringed on individual rights.

"My understanding of freedom does not stop at my level as an individual," he said before the vote, as The New York Times reported. "It is also a question of whether I am unnecessarily putting others at risk. Freedom also means that I will not be unnecessarily put at risk and that is precisely why, from the point of view of preserving freedom, this law is a good law, because it protects freedom and health."

Other countries may now follow Germany's lead. UK health secretary Matt Hancock said in September that he was "looking very seriously" at making vaccines mandatory for students at state schools, The Guardian reported.

The rise in measles cases has also spread to the U.S., where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 1,261 cases in 31 states so far this year, The New York Times reported.

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