5 July 2017
Eleven vaccinations for young children will be made compulsory in France from 2018. A "short term evil for the long term good", doctors say.
France's new prime minister Edouard Philippe announced during Tuesday's parliamentary address that from 2018 vaccines for young children that are unanimously recommended by health authorities will become obligatory from 2018.
During June, new health minister Agnes Buzyn announced that she wanted to make 11 vaccines compulsory for young children.
Three vaccines: diptheria, tetanus and polio are already obligatory but from 2018 these will be joined by eight more: whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitus B, influenza, pneumonia and meningitis C.
At present these vaccinations are only recommended by the state and the decision whether or not to inoculate a child is left in the hands of the parents, who are often swayed by theories and scare stories about health risks of certain vaccines.
Philippe said in his speech on Tuesday that "diseases that we believed to be eradicated are developing once again, children are dying of the measles in France and in the country of Pasteur, that is unacceptable."
And in June new health minister Agnes Buzyn told Le Parsien newspaper that the current system causes “a real public health problem”, adding that measles is coming back.
Since 2008, measles has killed 10 children in France.
“We have the same problem with meningitis. It's not acceptable that a 15-year-old teenager could die just because they have not been vaccinated," the minister said.
At the end of June, 200 senior doctors and hospital bosses announced themselves in favour of the move with a petition published in Le Parisien.
"Vaccination isn't only a personal choice that solely benefits the person who is vaccinated" but "it aims to protect the population, in particular children, the elderly and fragile," wrote the health professionals.
"Systematic vaccination has eradicated diseases, such as Smallpox " the text noted, "but the reduction in the vaccination coverage rate of the population has led to the resurgence of certain diseases such as measles."
But not everyone in France has been positive about vaccinations in recent years and many are unlikely to support the government's move.
In a survey published in October, just 69 percent of people said they had confidence in vaccinations, representing the lowest level since 2012.
People who are anti-vaccinations stress the alleged dangers involved, highlighting the use of additives like aluminium in some jabs.
They have also accused laboratories of putting profitability ahead of the health of children.
But those doctors who signed the appeal in favour of the vaccinations are shocked and insist the false information must be fought.
"We are astonished to see that 41 percent of the French say they are wary of vaccinations", said François Chast, head of pharmacology at Paris hospitals.
"It is urgent to fight the speeches of anti-science and anti-vaccination lobbies that play on fear, they show nothing and rely on a few very rare side effects to discredit vaccines that save millions of lives," he said.
Professor Alain Fischer, president of a body that advises on vaccinations added: "As soon as we talk about a vaccination obligation, it triggers a row."
"Unfortunately there are no other solutions to combat the upsurge in childhood diseases. It is a short term evil for a long term good "he said.
The announcement comes soon after Italy introduced a new law that forces children to be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enroll in state schools.
Reacting to the controversial law Italian expert on infectious diseases Alberto Giubilini said the government was justified to coerce parents into vaccinating their children.
“The benefits of vaccination in terms of protection from infectious disease outweigh the costs and risks of vaccination,” he said. “For instance, the World Health Organisation estimates that between 2000 and 2015, measles vaccination prevented more than 20 million deaths.”