German football squad to get measles vaccination

Worried by a raging measles epidemic in Euro 2008 host countries Austria and Switzerland, German football officials plan to vaccinate the entire national team against the highly contagious disease if need be.

German football squad to get measles vaccination

“Those who don’t already have immunity will be immediately vaccinated,” German team doctor Tim Meyer told Der Spiegel magazine. “All it takes is for one player to fall ill and then the European Championship will be over – not just for him but probably for the entire team.”

The magazine reported that all the players as well as the team’s training and support staff will have their vaccination certificates inspected and their blood checked for anti-bodies ahead of the championship, to make sure they are not at risk of catching measles.

Austria and Switzerland, hosts of the European Championship starting next month, have been struggling for the past year and a half to control a serious measles outbreak which is highly infectious and can be potentially fatal. On Monday, the Swiss Health Ministry said it had recorded more than 100 new cases in the past few weeks. Since January, more than six hundred cases have been identified in Switzerland — a large number for a country of just 7.5 million people.

Experts say unvaccinated people have a high chance of getting infected if they are exposed to the virus. There are fears the epidemic could travel to other European countries during the tournament. Hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom may be unvaccinated against measles, are expected to travel to Austria and Switzerland for the championship. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged football supporters to make sure they check to see if they have been vaccinated against measles and get shots if their immunity is unclear.

Jittery German health authorities have suggested setting up mobile vaccination stations in front of the stadiums so that fans can at least get a one-off dose before a game. However, a spokesman of the Swiss Health Ministry was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying that such clinics would mar the image of the football tournament. “The sight would only serve to scare people off,” he said.