Briefly, before you continue: we do not advocate requiring people to be vaccinated. We think the hotly debated topic deserves wise, scientifically grounded consideration first.
But the health services sector of the Czech Republic’s new government has decided to adopt a government-wide requirement for children to be vaccinated to ensure their protection against infections such as measles and mumps. In approving the mandatory requirement, it’s worth considering the long-term ramifications.
Originally proposed by the right-leaning Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the new vaccine measure immediately caused alarm among officials who said it would lead to the infection of even more children. But the government has a parliamentary majority and its leader, Prime Minister Andrej Babis, said Thursday that the measure should be enforced.
The Czech Republic experienced a measles outbreak in 2016 that left 1,500 people exposed to the virus and the virus has returned to Europe with a vengeance. The emergency measure is part of a plan to allow the Czech Republic to vaccinate children at two, four and eight years old, regardless of whether they are eligible for health insurance or if their parents can afford the vaccination.
Asked by reporters on Thursday whether the government would appeal the measure, Babis said: “I would like to think that the courts would enforce that law in all cases, I do not think we should go against the courts.”
Health officials were quick to embrace the mandatory measure. Health Minister Tomas Joklik said Thursday that it was necessary to prevent epidemic outbreaks and prevent children from falling ill by the parents of older children and youths.
“In the case that you can protect more people more effectively, then that’s a good thing.”
-Minister Tomas Joklik
Opposition lawmakers have said that vaccination is a fundamental right and have accused the ODS of trying to “suck the life blood” out of the system. There are no penalties for families that fail to provide vaccinations for children, and critics claim the system might discourage parents from vaccinating.
Joklik, however, asserted that the required vaccines would not be expensive. Any parents that failed to provide vaccinations for their children would “no longer exist,” Joklik said.
Dr. Leila Roma, a leading Hungarian pediatrician, expressed concern that such measures would give the government too much power. She argued that she had no objection to making vaccinations mandatory for children who cannot afford them. “But I’m against a mandatory system that basically puts the government in charge of how much vaccines a child should get,” she said.
In December 2016, Hungary imposed a similar mandatory vaccination rule, to prevent the spread of measles. Pediatricians were quick to support the measure because of what they viewed as the government’s inability to provide a sufficient level of vaccination coverage. There is even a disease here, Mumpso Mumpso Virus (MMV), which claims the lives of around 250 children each year and patients are often unable to recover without treatment.
Hungary was still at risk of importing the disease because of its low vaccination coverage rate of 50 percent in the country. That brought about strong criticism in the medical community. Hungary’s first ever successful Meningitis B vaccination drive was spearheaded by these doctors.
The Hungarian Health Ministry’s spokesman said that the government intends to follow the Czech government’s lead in removing parents’ responsibility for vaccinations. By 2020, the country plans to vaccinate 25 percent of students ages 15 to 17, and 75 percent of infants aged eight months to two years old.