Germany Considers $2,800 Fine for Parents Skipping Measles Vaccination
Germany, like the U.S., is in the midst of a measles outbreak. The country has seen 651 cases of the disease between March 2018 and February of this year, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the sixth most of any country in the EU.
Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to put a stop to it. To that end, he has drafted legislation that would fine parents who fail to vaccinate their children up to €2,500 (approximately $2,800), CNN reported Tuesday.
"I want to eradicate measles," Spahn told told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday, as CNN reported.
12 352 cases of #measles were reported in the #EU/EEA in 2018, with France, Italy and Greece reporting the highest… https://t.co/4JVUhbCspE— ECDC - VPD (@ECDC - VPD)1556538328.0
Spahn submitted the bill to Chancellor Angela Merkel's government this week, The New York Times reported. The bill would ban toddlers and children who have not been vaccinated from attending school. Since school attendance is mandatory in Germany after age six, parents who refused would have to pay the fines to keep their children out of school. The bill would also require adults working in schools, hospitals and other public institutions to prove they had been vaccinated.
Some have criticized the bill, which would enter into effect in early 2020 if approved, for infringing on families' freedoms, according to The Washington Post.
But Spahn argued it was time to take action.
"We have been having this debate every few months over the past 10, 20 years," he told television broadcaster ZDF Monday, according to The Washington Post. "Whenever there is an outbreak and children or students have to be kept away from lessons, everyone says we could, we should do something — but not enough happens."
Spahn's bill would follow a move by the German state of Brandenburg to mandate vaccines for all children attending Kindergarten. In the U.S., New York City introduced fines of up to $1,000 last month to fight an ongoing measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 764 cases of measles confirmed in 23 states in the U.S. this year, the most since 1994.
@CDCgov is working 24/7 to stop the #measlesoutbreaks & protect Americans from this contagious disease. As of May 3… https://t.co/NVAq3ueFmg— Dr. Robert R. Redfield (@Dr. Robert R. Redfield)1557175021.0
Globally, there have been almost four times as many measles cases in the first three months of 2019, compared with the same time period last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, according to The New York Times.
In Europe, more than 34,000 people have contracted the disease in the first two months of 2019, mostly in the Ukraine, Reuters reported. Thirteen people have died.
"If outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread to additional countries within and beyond the region," the WHO said in a statement announcing the figures. "Every opportunity should be used to vaccinate susceptible children, adolescents and adults."
The WHO maintains that 95 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated against measles in order for the population as a whole to be safe, The New York Times explained. In Germany, only 93 percent of first graders were sufficiently protected in 2017, the Robert Koch Institute found.
The global rise of measles comes from a combination of lack of access to vaccines, fear of vaccines and complacency, CNN reported.
A UNICEF study reported by CNN found that 110,000 people died from measles in 2017, mostly children. The number is 22 percent higher than the year before, and is due to 20 million children a year not receiving the first dose of the vaccine. The U.S. leads high-income countries for children missing the first dose of the vaccine, according to WHO.
In an interview with The Times Saturday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said those who campaigned against vaccines had "blood on their hands," CNN reported.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.