France is officially alarmed.
Public health authorities in Paris will be distributing tens of thousands of doses of vaccines across the country for just one month, the Financial Times reports. That’s because for the first time, France has registered a spike in measles cases.
More than 95 percent of people vaccinated are immune — but when there are just a few cases, the government may call in the vaccines to spare those who are unvaccinated.
And then there’s Austria, which “looked at four potential cases of Measles A, a more severe form of the disease, before deciding that the likelihood of spreading it was unlikely. The decision to not intervene will not be overturned, however, if new suspected cases crop up in the future.”
Vaccine rates in Europe are terrible. In neighboring Italy, vaccination rates have fallen to less than 70 percent, putting a strain on the health care system for the unvaccinated. And in Wales, the rates are even worse — around 36 percent. Of these, the country’s healthcare minister announced that officials will be contacting more than 1,000 parents, asking them to get their children immunized. The government also plans to do more outreach to reach children with chronic illnesses, who are at higher risk.
The World Health Organization believes vaccination rates should be above 95 percent worldwide — and that not vaccinating children amounts to “a crime.” Public attitudes to vaccinations are even more perilous in other parts of the globe. The number of unvaccinated children in Australia has declined in recent years — down to around 3 percent of total numbers. But that’s still more than a third of the “ordinary” population.
In New Zealand, a newly published study found that “18% of children aged between four and seven years had received at least one childhood vaccine, up from 13% in 2001, the year before the measles, mumps and rubella program was introduced in New Zealand.”
However, as the Lancet newspaper pointed out, “vaccination rates among New Zealand’s two-year-olds fell from 92.8% in 2001 to 91.4% in 2008.” Around 45 percent of two-year-olds haven’t received their MMR vaccine, suggesting that there’s room for improvement.
In Britain, vaccination rates have declined in recent years — mostly blamed on a new reporting system which resulted in more people being exempt from vaccination laws. A survey by Public Health England, published last November, found that vaccination rates among 10- and 11-year-olds were hovering around 97 percent. However, “there are many cases of measles which have gone unreported,” the British Medical Journal wrote recently. “That is one of the reasons why even the high level of measles immunisation being reported is likely an underestimate of the true level of vaccine coverage in the U.K.”
It’s unlikely that an even greater sea change in attitudes is just around the corner. But with each new measles outbreak, Europe takes another step on the road to becoming what the WHO calls a “vaccine-preventable disease area.”
Read the full story at The Financial Times.
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