Support for mandatory vaccinations is highest in the former East Germany, where 93 percent of respondents to a survey said parents should be required to have their children vaccinated.
Of the just over 1,000 people surveyed by polling firm Forsa for statutory insurer DAK, 82 percent agreed that mandatory vaccinations would bring down the cases of illness.
More than two-thirds said they thought many parents did not take the issue seriously enough (73 percent) and that sickness among children was not given enough attention (68 percent).
Of those who opposed mandatory vaccination, the most common objection was that it would strip parents of the right to decide (76 percent). Other concerns included fears about the risks and side effects associated with vaccination.
However doctors stressed that the risk associated with vaccination is negligible. The DAK says just one in every million children who get the measles vaccination suffer long-term negative health effects as a result.
According to DAK employee Elisabeth Thomas, the German term Kinderkrankeiten (children’s illnesses) undermines the danger posed by many of the diseases against which children are vaccinated.
“We’re talking about serious illnesses that can have serious consequences including death,” she said.
Those particularly at risk are young adults who have not been vaccinated against measles, which is highly infectious.
“Complications such as meningitis or disabilities can manifest after many years,” Thomas said.
Recently a school in the town of Erfstadt in south-west Cologne had to close after several students caught measles. The number of cases in Berlin and Bavaria has also increased in the last year.