In the first half of this year, France has reported nearly six times the number of cases of measles as they experienced over the same timeframe in 2016—295 cases this year versus 47 last. French politicians have taken notice of this disturbing trend and now they are taking action to prevent widespread public health emergencies. As Newsweek reports, “Three vaccines, for diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis, are already mandatory in France,” but now Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is saying that beginning early next year, eight other vaccines will become required for French citizens. The new law will add vaccines preventing polio, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, pneumococcus, and meningococcus C to their list of mandatory vaccines.
A Matter of Pride and Practicality for the French People
“Children are still dying of measles,” Prime Minister Philippe said in a policy speech covered by the French publication Le Figaro. “In the homeland of Pasteur that is not admissible.” Pasteur, of course, is the French biologist for whom pasteurization—the process that helps to keep milk and other foodstuffs germ free—was named. The 19th-century scientist is also renowned as the “father of microbiology” and is credited with the creation of rabies and anthrax vaccines. The European Center for Disease Control notes that when it comes to measles in France, “The incidence is highest in children under one year (5.2/100,000 with 43 cases), which represents 14.6% of cases declared… Of the cases with known vaccination status (258 cases out of 295), 190 (74%) were not vaccinated, 40 (16%) had received a single dose, 25 (10%) had received two doses and for three cases (1%) the number was unknown.”
A-level vaccination is the only way to stop outbreaks.
Dr. Seth Berkley of the nonprofit organization Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance promotes global vaccination policies. “Over the past five years,” Berkley told NPR earlier this year, “measles vaccine coverage around the world has stagnated at around 78 percent… That in combination with the European outbreak is worrisome.” NPR reporter Michaeleen Doucleff elaborated on the scientist’s comments, “For the measles, it’s not enough to have 78 percent of a population vaccinated. You need about 90 to 95 percent to stop outbreaks, Berkeley says.” So right now, if the world were being graded on our collective vaccination against measles, we’d only be at a C level. We need to work together to get this grade up to an A.
France is not alone.
Germany is considering similar legislation that would fine families who don’t vaccinate their children. Italy has recently submitted similar legislation as well. In Australia, certain tax rebates are tied to whether a child has been properly vaccinated. Meanwhile in Texas, their house of representatives recently passed a “measure barring mandatory vaccines for foster children,” with the amendment’s sponsor, Arlington Republican Rep. Bill Zedler, saying, “Immunizations do not qualify as emergency care. No vaccine cures a disease.” Sometimes it looks like it’s two steps forward, one step back for supporters of mandatory vaccinations. Only time will tell if legislation requiring vaccines will have a positive outcome for public health, but the science clearly points to the benefits of a vaccinated population.