Germany set to bring in fines, kindergarten bans if parents refuse vaccinations

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Germany set to bring in fines, kindergarten bans if parents refuse vaccinations
Image: DPA

A proposal put forward by German Health Minister Jens Spahn to encourage vaccination involves €2,500 fines and kindergarten bans. The measures target diseases such as measles, which are on the rise in Germany.


Decades after the creation of a vaccine reduced measles cases close to zero in Germany, instances of the disease are again on the rise. 

The increases are largely thanks to the prominent ‘anti-vaccination’ movement, which has gathered steam in several western nations. 

While the science behind the movement has been debunked on several occasions, it has found favour with parents across Germany. 

Health Minister Spahn, of the CDU, appeared on the Sunday evening Tagesthemen program to explain his plan to “eradicate” the disease - as well as tackle the anti-vaccination movement. 

Through a combination of large fines and kindergarten bans, Spahn’s plan aims to reduce disease outbreaks across the country. 

READ: German parliament to consider compulsory vaccination laws

Under the proposal, the bans would commence in March 2020. 

German health minister Jens Spahn. Image: DPA

Measles on the rise in Germany

The current vaccination rate in Germany is 93 percent, which authorities say is short of the minimum of 95 percent. This level is required in order to provide safety to children who for health reasons cannot be vaccinated. 

From relatively few cases in the 1980s and 1990s, measles has increased in recent years. There have been 170 cases across the country in just the first two months of 2019. 

The Ministry of Health estimates that around 600,000 people would need to be vaccinated under the laws, with an estimated 360,000 unvaccinated children in schools and kindergartens across the country. 

Kindergarten bans

While Germany’s compulsory school attendance laws prevent banning children from attending elementary school, there are no such laws preventing kindergarten bans. 

Spahn told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that kindergartens face a particular threat, especially as children under 10 months cannot be vaccinated and are therefore susceptible to disease. 

“Kindergartens have children who are under 10 months of age, meaning they are too young to receive vaccinations and are therefore especially under threat," he said. 

“My plan is to eradicate measles. Parents should rest assured that their children will not be infected and are therefore not in danger of contracting measles.”

A vaccination form. Image: DPA

Fines for failure to vaccinate

Referencing Germany’s compulsory school attendance laws, Spahn said parents of elementary school-aged children would be encouraged to vaccinate by large fines. 

Parents could be fined €2,500 where they fail to adequately vaccinate their children. 

Spahn said the law would have some scope for exceptions, given that many children are unable to be vaccinated. 

Children suffering from diseases like leukaemia and who have received organ transplants cannot be vaccinated. Under the proposal, parents would need to produce evidence of vaccination - or proof that their children cannot be vaccinated. 

Not just kids

The plan doesn’t only target children, however. 

Teachers and adult workers in daycare centres and schools would also be required to show proof of vaccination.

Similarly, people working in the healthcare industry and in public community facilities must also be vaccinated. 

‘A good idea, but difficult to enforce’

While the plan has gained support from coalition partner the SPD, not all are on board. 

The Greens oppose the move, while president of the Doctors Association Frank Ulrich Montgomery said the move was welcome but would be difficult to enforce. 

He told DPA that education was the best way to boost vaccination levels. 

“Compulsory vaccinations are easy to demand but difficult to enforce,” he said. 

“I can’t imagine a situation where police are giving children vaccinations. Therefore, one must try and influence people with reason – that means, above all, education.

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Measles vaccination - die Masern-Impfung

Eradicate - ausrotten

Fine - die Geldstrafe

Conscientious objector - der Verweigerer

Kindergarten/nursery - der Kindergarten

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