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Germany set to introduce fines of up to €2,500 for failing to vaccinate

A new German law will be introduced obliging kindergartens to inform the authorities if parents fail to provide evidence that they have received advice from their doctor on vaccinating their children.

Parents refusing the advice risk fines of up to 2,500 euros under the law expected to come into force in June this year.

Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said it was necessary to tighten the law because of a measles epidemic.

Germany has reported 410 measles cases so far this year, more than in the whole of 2016. A 37-year-old woman died of the disease this May, in the western city of Essen.

The German government wants kindergartens to report any parents who cannot prove they have had a medical consultation.

However, Germany is not yet making it an offence to refuse vaccinations. The children of parents who fail to seek vaccination advice could be expelled from their daycare centre.

Vaccination rules are being tightened across Europe, where a decline in immunisation, has caused a spike in diseases such as measles, chicken pox and mumps, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Italy made vaccination compulsory in May this year, after health officials warned that a fall-off in vaccination rates had triggered a measles epidemic, with more than 2,000 cases there this year, almost ten times the number in 2015.

In 10 European countries, cases of measles, which can cause blindness and encephalitis, had doubled in number in the first two months of 2017 compared to the previous year, the ECDC said last month.

Measles is a highly infectious vaccine-preventable disease, and globally still one of the leading causes of childhood mortality.

The World Health Organisation reports that the European Region includes highly effective and safe measles and rubella vaccines in their vaccination programs; however, due to persistent gaps in immunisation coverage outbreaks of measles and rubella continue to occur. 

The Australian Medical Association endorses the overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination saves lives. Important immunisation information is available in the Australian Academy of Science publication, The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers, which is available at www.science.org.au/immunisation.html .

Meredith Horne