France has announced its intentions to make 11 vaccines mandatory for children in the face of record low confidence in its population that vaccines can be trusted.
The French website The Local reports that in a parliamentary address on Tuesday, France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared the government’s plan to implement the mandatory requirements, adding eight vaccines to the mandatory list that already included the vaccines for polio, tetanus and diphtheria.
The move is supported in France’s medical community as a pathway to ensure that immunity remains at acceptable levels in the face of an alarming resurgence in diseases that were all but eliminated a decade ago. According to Santé publique France, a governmental public health monitoring agency in France, measles has been one of these resurgent diseases, with more than 24,000 cases since 2008 which led to 34 cases in neurological complications and 10 deaths.
In a letter from 200 doctors supporting this measure, the importance of protecting the vulnerable was emphasized. The group’s endorsement was in part motivated “because vaccination is not only a personal choice with benefits only for the person vaccinated but aims to protect the population, especially children, the elderly or frail.”
But while both the government and the medical community approach their policy with seemingly good intentions, not everyone in France is confident that this policy is purely benevolent.
The Local notes that French anti-vaccine advocates have “accused laboratories of putting profitability ahead of the health of children,” particularly over concerns for the “alleged dangers involved, highlighting the use of additives like aluminium in some jabs.” And this opinion is far from the fringe, with a survey of France in October 2016 indicating that “just 69 percent of people said they had confidence in vaccinations.”
This figure is far higher than even the vocal anti-vaccine movement in America, which according to a Pew study in 2015, faces an “83% majority” of the U.S. population that believes vaccines are safe for healthy children, with only 9 percent responding that vaccines are not safe.
The French public may not be wholly convinced that forcing vaccination is an appropriate and safe measure, but the government appears determined, with Professor Alain Fischer, an adviser on a French vaccination policy body, surmising to The Local that “unfortunately there are no other solutions to combat the upsurge in childhood diseases. It is a short term evil for a long term good.”