With a growing number of measles cases, the Robert Koch Institut (RKI) has called for urgent inoculations. Experts are holding the first-ever National Inoculation Conference in Mainz to devise a strategy.
Germany needs to develop a vaccination strategy -- and fast
According to the Robert-Koch Institute (RKI), the central federation institution responsible for disease control and prevention in Germany, there has been a recent spike in measles cases.
There were 566 cases in 2007, but the number rose to 916 just one year later, said the RKI. Eighty-three cases have been reported across Germany since the beginning of February 2009.
"Measles are hardly a harmless childhood illness," said RKI President Joerg Hacker.
Hamburg has recently experienced an alarming breakout of the disease. Just over 100 cases were reported in the city since the beginning of the year -- more than in any single year since 2001, when reporting measles cases was made compulsory.
While many children get their first inoculation against the measles, receiving the second is also key
The western state of North-Rhine Westphalia has also seen a shocking increase in cases, according to the Robert-Koch Institute. Twenty-eight cases have been reported since the middle of February, in contrast to 50 in all of last year.
In Europe, 8,145 measles cases have been reported in the last 12 months. Eighty-six percent of these were limited to just six Western European countries -- Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the UK -- as well as Israel.
Adolescents at risk
With the rise in cases, Germany has set a goal together with the World Health Organization (WHO) to eradicate measles, but experts say the current inoculation quota will not achieve this -- which is why the first National Inoculation Conference was held in Mainz this week to discuss a vaccination strategy.
The WHO's European office in Copenhagen has warned that measles is a highly contagious disease since many children either have not been immunized or haven't received the necessary stage-two immunization.
According to RKI studies, approximately one-fourth of adolescents in Germany are not immunized against measles, though measles vaccinations in children has increased in past years.
Nevertheless, only 87 to 95 percent of children have received both measles vaccinations, which isn't enough to eradicate the illness.
Vaccinations in Germany are voluntary, but are covered by the compulsory health insurance fund.