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Anti-vaxxers could face steep fines in Germany

May 5, 2019

German Health Minister Jens Spahn is proposing a law that allows for fining parents of unvaccinated children up to €2,500 ($2,800). The conservative lawmaker said he wants to "eradicate" measles.

Syringe with a needle
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K.-J. Hildenbrand

Parents in Germany who refuse to vaccinate their children against measles would be required to pay up to €2,500 ($2,800) in fines and their children would be thrown out of kindergarten, according to a draft law put forward by Health Minister Jens Spahn.

"I want to eradicate measles," Spahn told the mass circulation Bild am Sonntag paper. "All parents should be secure in the knowledge that their children will not be infected and endangered by measles."

Read more: Why measles is so deadly and vaccination so important

Germany's Robert Koch Institute believes that 93% of children have the necessary immunization. However, this is still short of the recommended 95% rate.

Spahn said the kindergarten ban would help protect children too young to receive any immunization shots.

"Kindergartens have children under 10 months of age, who are too young for vaccinations and are therefore especially threatened," Spahn told the paper.

Germany's vaccination problem

All by 2020

The bill has a different solution for parents of schoolchildren. Elementary education is mandatory in Germany, so the law would not be able to keep unvaccinated children out of schools. Instead, their parents would be required to pay the fine.

In addition to newborns, there are also older children whose health prevents them from getting immunized, such as organ recipients or people suffering from leukemia. Their parents would need to provide proof of the medical condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine.

By July 2020, other parents who attempt to sign up their children for kindergartens or schools would need to provide confirmation that their children have been vaccinated.

Vaccinations will also become mandatory for employees of hospitals and private medical practices.

Jens Spahn (CDU)
Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to boost the number of people immunized against measlesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

Infection rate skyrockets

The draft legislation is currently being discussed in the Cabinet. It is expected to be adopted this year and go into force in March 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations have repeatedly called for action over a recent increase in measles outbreaks across the world. Measles killed 136,000 people last year, and the number of people infected with the disease surged by 50% compared to 2017.

Developed countries have also seen a rise in measles infections, partly due to a debunked claim that vaccines cause autism. Germany, which has seen large outbreaks in several of its states, registered 170 measles cases in the first two months of 2019.

dj/amp (dpa, AFP, epd)

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