Germany is considering drastic measures to stop the spread of measles.
The country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, is proposing a fine of €2,500 (about $2,800 USD) for families who do not get their school-aged children vaccinated against the disease, according to the New York Times. Measles cases have spiked more than 300% worldwide in the first three months of 2019, as compared to 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Germany’s health minister has also written legislation to keep unvaccinated children out of nursery and daycare facilities, according to the Independent.
“I want to eradicate measles,” Spahn said.
In the first five months of 2019, 300 Germans have been diagnosed with the disease, which outpaces 2018, when approximately 500 cases were diagnosed. The bill would also require people who work in public institutions such as schools and hospitals to prove they’re immunizations are up to date. If passed, it will be introduced in early 2020.
Preliminary global data on #measles shows that reported cases rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years. https://t.co/fY27Rlzlqw#VaccinesWorkpic.twitter.com/oImdYl4L9G— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 15, 2019
In countries like Germany, Britain, and the US, anti-vaccine campaigns have spread wide misinformation. Earlier this week, Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock said, “Those who have promoted the anti-vaccination myth are morally reprehensible, deeply irresponsible, and have blood on their hands.”
Vaccines are “good for you, good for your children, and good for your neighbour,” Hancock said, especially if they are medically compromised and cannot be innoculated themselves. (Vaccines work thanks to herd immunity, in which more than 95% of the community must be protected. If the vaccination rate dips below that, people with compromised immunity and babies too young to have been innoculated are exposed.)
Worldwide, more than 112,000 measles cases have been diagnosed in the first three months of 2019. Countries like Madagascar are facing an outbreak due to difficult treks to get the vaccine and not enough health care providers. In countries where people are already facing malnutrition and dehydration, the disease can become more deadly.
In the United States, measles cases have also surged, with more than 700 diagnoses so far in 2019 — the highest number since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles is highly contagious — it can live on surfaces for two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes, the CDC says. One infected person can spread the disease to 90% of unimmunized people close to them. Once diagnosed, people face serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, blindness, and seizures, the WHO says. But it can be entirely prevented with two doses of the vaccine.
The disease kills about 100,000 people a year, mostly young children, according to the WHO.