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A person getting a vaccine against Ebola
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J.D. Kannah

WHO: Anti-vaccination campaigns a health threat

January 21, 2019

The World Health Organization has warned that anti-vaccine propaganda is causing an alarming resurgence in preventable diseases. SPD politician Karl Lauterbach has called for mandatory vaccination in Germany.


The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that a lack of willingness to vaccinate was one of the world's greatest health risks. The WHO put the focus in particular on the threat posed by anti-vaccination movements in the western world.

Some 2 to 3 million people a year are saved from dying by vaccines worldwide, according to the WHO. Approximately 1.5 million could have been added to that tally, if vaccination efforts were more widespread, the organization said.

The WHO said a case in point, to illustrate the magnitude of the problem, was the fight against measles. In 2017, the number of cases rose by 30 percent worldwide in comparison with the previous year.

In particular, the WHO warned about the increase of measles in Europe, where 23,927 contracted the disease in 2017. This was a sharp rise in comparison with the previous year where only 5,273 cases were registered.

Read more: Russian trolls 'promoting discord' over vaccines

Vaccination debate in Germany

German MP Karl Lauterbach, of the German social democratic SPD party, said in an interview with newspaper Die Welt on Monday that he would advocate making vaccinations manadatory.

Lauterbach said he would bring up the issue with German Health Minister Jens Spahn with the hope of starting the discussion. The SPD politician believes such a nationwide conversation is needed "because the previous campaigns in favor of voluntary vaccination have proved to be insufficient."

Read more: Russian trolls 'promoting discord' over vaccines

Karin Maag, spokeswoman for the parliamentary CDU/CSU group on health policy, approached the subject with more caution. Maag said that although she sees opponents of vaccination as "a major health risk," an assessment of countries with compulsory vaccination policies should be carried out, to see if it could work in Germany. She referred to France and Italy as the primary cases.

"If it turns out that the two countries are successful in introducing compulsory vaccination, we should also discuss compulsory vaccination in Germany," said Maag.

Germany's Greens currently oppose efforts to impose a mandatory vaccination policy. Kordula Schulz-Asche, member of the Bundestag specializing on health policy, said that her party would support guidance policies instead of coercion and punishment.

jcg/msh (dpa, AFP)

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