Germany is to make measles vaccinations compulsory for all children from next year amid concern at the rise in infections.
Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to make vaccinations mandatory at all schools and kindergartens. As school is compulsory in Germany and home schooling is not permitted, parents will be obliged to vaccinate their children.
From March next year, parents who fail to show proof their children have been vaccinated or have a medical condition that exempts them will face fines of up to €2,500 (£2,258). The new law will also apply to teachers and kindergarten staff.
“We want to save as many children as possible from measles infection,” Jens Spahn, the German health minister, said on Wednesday. “Measles is extremely contagious and can take a very nasty, at times deadly, turn.”
The move comes after the rate of measles infections in Germany tripled to almost 1,000 cases in 2017, and one child died. More than 400 cases have already been reported so far this year.
The vaccination rate against measles in Germany is 92.9 per cent but it has been falling in recent years.
There are concerns the highly infectious disease is making a comeback across the developed world as parents refuse to have their children vaccinated.
The “anti-vaxxer” movement has seen a growing number of parents refuse to have their children immunised over fears the vaccine may cause autism or other developmental disorders, despite the fact there is no scientific evidence to support this.
In the US, New York City introduced mandatory vaccinations earlier this year and imposed fines of $1,000.
In Germany, compulsory vaccinations have already been introduced at a regional level in the state of Brandenburg, but Wednesday’s decision will extend the policy to the entire country.
The move still has to be approved by the German parliament before it becomes law, but the large government majority means it is expected to pass without difficulty.
Measles used to kill almost 2.6m people a year before modern vaccinations became widespread in the 1980s, and still kills over 100,000 a year in the developing world.