French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced on Tuesday that starting in 2018, vaccines for 11 diseases will be mandatory for French children, Newsweek reported on Wednesday.
Vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis are already mandated in France, and starting in 2018, French parents will be required by law to ensure that their children are vaccinated against polio, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B, among other diseases.
“Children are still dying of measles,” Philippe told French Parliament on Tuesday, according to Newsweek. “In the homeland of Pasteur, that is not admissible.”
In March, France was one of several European countries that experienced a widespread measles outbreak, the BBC reported at the time.
A contributing factor in the outbreak was the worrisome statistic that in France, as well as other Western European countries, the measles vaccination rate has dropped below the 95% threshold necessary to keep measles, a highly infectious disease, from spreading, as the Economist reported in 2016.
In the U.S., too, the rate of measles vaccinations has dipped below 95%, as the Economist reported. Measles, once eradicated in the U.S., is making an alarming comeback, as public health expert Dr. Melvin Sanicas wrote in HuffPost on Monday. According to Sanicas, the measles comeback is related to fear of vaccines stoked by faulty research.
Beginning in April, Minnesota experienced its largest measles outbreak in years. By the end of June, more than 70 people had been sickened. Health experts believe that the Minnesota outbreak may have been caused, in part, by so-called “anti-vaxxers” who targeted the state’s Somali immigrant community with faulty — and debunked — science linking vaccines to autism.
So will the U.S. join France in a fight against the resurgence of measles? President Donald Trump’s ambiguous position on vaccines, and his history of espousing anti-vaccine theories on Twitter, seems to cast doubt on the idea that the U.S. will take any steps towards promoting vaccines on a national level under Trump’s leadership.
State and local governments set vaccination requirements for facilities like daycares and public and private schools, according to the CDC. Rules for vaccine exemptions vary from place to place, but, according to the CDC, there are steps that medical professionals can take to raise the vaccine rates, including having more “in-depth conversations” with parents.
However, some states are going further. In April, vaccine rates among kindergarten-age children in California rose to their highest level since 1998 after the state instituted a 2015 law making it more difficult for parents to get vaccine exemptions for their children, the Los Angeles Times reported.
California State Senator Richard Pan, who supported the new law and is also a pediatrician, cheered the news that vaccine rates were up among at least one age group in the state — but he said there was still work to be done.
“Measles certainly hasn’t gone away,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “We need to be sure to have our immunization levels high enough. The fact that this class and the state overall has now achieved this level is one further step to restore the community immunity we had before.”