The French are the world’s biggest vaccine skeptics.
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According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 2017 is shaping up to see a big increase in measles infections and deaths. “Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising,” the WHO wrote.
The major reason for the increase? Vaccination rates around the world have stalled due to anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories.
“Over the past five years, measles vaccine coverage around the world has stagnated at around 78 percent,” Dr. Seth Berkley from Gavi, a nonprofit vaccine alliance, told NPR. “That in combination with the European outbreak is worrisome.” To stop measles outbreaks the worldwide vaccination rate needs to be at 90% to 95%.
The decrease in vaccination rates has hit France especially hard. Between 2008 and 2016, the country has reported over 24,000 cases of measles, including 10 deaths. A major reason for the outbreak is the French are the biggest vaccine skeptics in the world. A recent study found that 41% of French people disagreed with the phrase “vaccines are safe.” So to combat this major public health concern, France is making them mandatory.
Under the new law, starting next year, all French children must be vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis, polio, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, pneumococcus, and meningococcus C. “Children are still dying of measles,” Édouard Philippe, France’s prime minister under president Emmanuel Macron, said. “In the homeland of Pasteur that is not admissible.”
France’s Minister of Health and Solidarity Agnès Buzyn understands that forcing parents to vaccinate their children is a controversial move but believes it’s necessary. “I hate coercion, it is not in my temperament. But there is an urgency,” she told Le Parisien in French, later adding, “There are times when obligation is a good thing to allow society to evolve.”