France To Make Vaccines Mandatory For All Children By 2018

by Christina Marfice
Image via scyther5 / iStock Photo

French Prime Minister says it’s “unacceptable” that children still die from measles.

Governments across Europe are taking a hard stance on vaccines. In May, the government of Italy made vaccinations for 12 diseases mandatory for all children, and beginning in 2018, France will follow suit.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe made the announcement to the French Parliament this week, stating that all vaccines unanimously recommended by health authorities will become mandatory. In his address, Philippe highlighted rising cases of measles — Europe is currently fighting an epidemic of the disease.

“Children are still dying of measles,” Philippe said, then referenced the French scientist who helped pioneer vaccines, adding, “In the homeland of [Louis] Pasteur that is not admissible.”

In March, the World Health Organization issued a warning about climbing numbers of reported measles cases. More than 2,500 cases of the disease have been recorded in Italy this year. Europe as a whole saw 500 cases in January alone. Measles is one of the world’s leading causes of death for young children; 134,200 people died from the disease in 2015.

Yet vaccines are still at the center of a hot debate between those who think they’re necessary for public health and those who think they should be a parent’s personal choice. Rumors that vaccines are linked to autism refuse to die, despite study after study after study disproving that claim, which is based on a fabricated study published in 1998. The doctor who wrote the study was exposed as a fraud and lost his license to practice medicine.

Measles was nearly eradicated in Europe before cases began climbing again in recent years, Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for the continent, said in a press release reported by the Huffington Post. “Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus,” Jakab added. “Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

What Jakab means by that is that even when 100 percent of the population isn’t vaccinated against a disease (and can’t be, due to factors like vaccine allergies), it takes a certain number of vaccinated individuals to provide herd immunity to those who can’t be vaccinated. Since so many people are vaccinated, the disease can’t spread among the population, providing protection to the few who can’t be vaccinated.

“When you see a fraying of community immunity, the contagious diseases are the ones that … start to come back,” Dr. Paul Offrit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The Huffington Post. “And the number one disease that is the canary in the coal mine is the measles.”

Outbreaks of measles and other illness preventable with vaccines continue worldwide, including in the United States, where only some states have vaccine mandates for certain diseases for school-aged children. President Donald Trump has voiced his support for vaccine skeptics, fueling the fire behind those who want vaccines to remain a personal choice.