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HEALTH

Germany’s first vegan kindergarten: progressive education or physical abuse?

In August the Mokita Kindergarten is set to open in Frankfurt, offering parents the chance to send their children to a preschool where there are no meat, egg or dairy products on the menu. The concept has come in for heavy criticism from city politicians.

Germany’s first vegan kindergarten: progressive education or physical abuse?
Photo: DPA

The kindergarten, which will at first care for 40 children, has set itself ambitious goals. Their stated aim is to create toddlers with the ability “to take account of conflicting goals when considering strategies for action” and to “reflect their own mission statements and those of others.”

While these ideas might sound rather ambitious for preschoolers, the intent to feed them a strictly vegan diet is what has made the Mokita preschool so controversial.

Stefan von Wangenheim of the Free Democrats told the Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) that a specialist told him that “one could see this as a form of physical abuse.”

“If parents were to send their kids to a Kindergarten which only provided fast food that would be just as dangerous for them as a vegan diet,” von Wangenheim said.

Even the eco-friendly Green Party don't seem impressed.

“I almost had a heart attack when I heard about it,” Birgit Ross of the Greens told the FR.

The opening of Germany’s first all-vegan kindergarten has also been met with raised eyebrows among nutritional experts.

“We are very sceptical about this,” a spokeswoman for the German Nutritional Society (DGE) told The Local on Wednesday. “While we don’t fundamentally recommend parents not to raise young children vegan, it needs to be done with a high level of knowledge and the additional use of supplements.”

In a position paper published in 2016, the DGE said that “with a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients.”

The DGE says that it does not recommend a vegan diet for pregnant women, lactating women, infants, children or adolescents.

“Persons who nevertheless wish to follow a vegan diet should permanently take a vitamin B12 supplement, pay attention to an adequate intake of nutrients, especially critical nutrients, and possibly use fortified foods or dietary supplements,” the position paper states.

Frankfurt city authorities, meanwhile, say that while they have given the kindergarten permission to open, they will be keeping a close eye on it.

A spokesperson for the city education authority said that the children at Mokita would be part of a scientific study to improve knowledge about vegan nutrition for children.

The little ones are to undergo regular examinations by doctors, and if anything unusual arises, the city will step in.

SEE ALSO: School kids don't have right to vegan food, Berlin court rules

HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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