Federal guidelines may soon be mandating new vaccines on children as young as 12-months to combat a growing flu epidemic in Europe. The move would make child vaccination a feature of all child immunization campaigns across the European Union.
According to recent data from Public Health England, childhood vaccination rates in England dropped in 2017. Only 78 percent of 11- to 18-year-olds and 79 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds were up to date on their vaccinations, despite widespread vaccination campaigns in that period, with nearly 2,500 children dying from the disease in 2017.
This development was widely reported this week by The Observer, which reports that the compulsory vaccination rules may be ready to be announced at next week’s EU meeting of the Health Council. A draft directive would require that vaccines become mandatory by 2019, according to The Daily Mail.
While experts are largely happy to see the policy, some warned that the project carries the possibility of stigmatizing the illnesses associated with flu and causes people to feel physically ill when they are reared to have received such a vaccine.
“It’s not unreasonable to want to encourage people to be vaccinated. It’s clear we have the potential for increasing the number of those who are vaccinated. It should also be a way of protecting parents in times of massive outbreaks of flu,” Professor Anil Verma, Director of the Glasgow Centre for Health Equity Studies told The Daily Mail. “But it might be hard to avoid the sense that you are an irresponsible parent.”
Other critics noted that one immunization could be required to protect children in only a few countries.
“One of the key themes that we have seen in Europe in the past few years has been clusters of deaths and measles in northern countries in particular,” Duncan Selbie, Director of Public Health England, told The Guardian. “The MMR and polio coverage in the U.K. has been well below the recommended levels and while this kind of thing may not be a crime in itself it does send out the wrong signals.”
Children in the United States do not have mandatory vaccinations. Flu shots do not include a quadrivalent immunization including two strains of the flu. A parent must now approve a child’s vaccination shot, though vaccinators are allowed to administer the flu shot to children if it is a general requirement of school. (Both the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend a vaccination for all children when they enter school.)
At the moment, schools only have the option to cancel a student’s flu vaccine if they make medical or ethical decisions. While many child advocates have accused schools of being mean and opting to vaccinate their students out of an interest to protect the school from risk, some parents have accused schools of being paranoid and selectively vaccinating their students.
Read the full story at The Guardian and The Observer.
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