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HEALTH

Germany makes measles vaccination compulsory for children

Germany’s federal cabinet has passed a new law for a compulsory measles vaccination, which could see parents fined if they violate it.

Germany makes measles vaccination compulsory for children
Photo: DPA

From March 2020, parents will have to prove that their children have been vaccinated before they can be admitted to a kita or school. 

The vaccination obligation also applies to childminders and staff in day-care centers, schools, medical facilities, and communal facilities such as refugee shelters. 

Children will only be admitted to kindergarten or school if they have had the jabs and violations can result in fines of up to €2,500.

“We want to protect as many children as possible from measles infection,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Wednesday. He added he is aiming for a 95 percent vaccination rate.

Children and staff who are already in a nursery, school or community centres when the law comes into force next March must prove that they have been vaccinated by July 31st, 2021 at the latest. 

The proof can can come from a vaccination certificate, a ‘Kinderuntersuchungsheft', a special booklet parents fill out documenting their child’s vaccines, or by a medical certificate that shows that the child has already had measles.

The 'Kinderuntersuchungsheft', or a special booklet to show if a child has received a vaccination. Photo: DPA

Growing numbers

The compulsory vaccination is being introduced in Germany in response to a worldwide increase in measles disease. In Europe alone, cases were up by 350 percent last year. 

In Germany last year, 543 cases were reported. In the first months of this year, already more than 400 cases have been reported. 

Last year, 350,000 cases of measles were reported worldwide, more than double the number for 2017.

And they increased fourfold globally in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period last year, according to WHO.

A heated topic

In Germany and abroad, the topic of vaccination has become increasingly controversial in recent years.

Germany's paediatricians' association has long demanded mandatory childhood vaccinations against measles and a range of other diseases.

The resurgence of the disease in some countries has been blamed on the so-called “anti-vax” movement, which is largely based on a 1998 publication linking the measles vaccine and autism that has since been debunked.

In response, the German government drafted the law making measles vaccination compulsory for all children.

After the cabinet, the Bundestag still has to give its approval. According to the Ministry of Health, no approval is required in the Bundesrat, the upper house of German Parliament.

The new legislation received widespead support, although was criticized by the Greens, who felt the vaccines should be encouraged but not mandatory.

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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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