If you like, you can make yourself comfortable on the sofa with a bag of popcorn these days and watch two warring camps once again as they attack each other: on television, in newspapers, on the net. It's amazing how much has been discussed for months about vaccination. Now that the measles law has been passed, and since March Kitak children, medical staff and kindergarten teachers born after 1970 must be vaccinated against measles, some of them will call again: this is an unpardonable interference with the fundamental right to physical integrity! And what if vaccinations do harm? And the other side will sit wide-legged and feel confirmed with the obligation to vaccinate: Impflücken are terribly threatening in Germany and finally the state does something about it!
The controversy is boiling over. If you look at the arguments of both sides in peace, it will soon realize: It's all so wild. Because the more one reads and investigates, the more hot air escapes from the vaccination debate, which is primarily determined by emotions.
An unnecessary, but no nationwide danger
Let's start with the threat: Yes, in Germany measles cases are registered every year. And only one of them is more unnecessary than the next one, because to undergo such an infection brings nothing but trouble, especially for children or people who are immune-deficient. In the worst case, it can lead to lung or meningitis and can be fatal. In addition, measles infection (unlike vaccination) weakens the immune system for years, as new studies show ( Science: Mina et al., 2019 & Science Immunology: Petrov et al., 2019).
But measles are not an area-wide danger. In 2016 there were 325 cases, 2017 929, 2018 543 cases - reasonably manageable. And unlike the rest of Europe or the United States, Germany also has no increase in infections (see chart).
This is simply because the vast majority of Germans are smart enough to get vaccinated. They understand that measles vaccine works, protects and is safe - and they are not baffled by myths that some people put into the world. Vaccination rates may not be perfect, but they are much lower underground. 97 percent of children in Germany received a measles vaccination at school enrollment, just under 93 also the second, which is important for complete protection (Epidemiological Bulletin, 2017). And, more importantly, the numbers have been rising slowly but steadily for years. Just as the number of people who support vaccinations (Federal Center for Health Education, 2017).
The fact that this is so has now apparently understood the Federal Ministry of Health. Even in the draft bill it was said that the "increased case numbers" were due to "progressive vaccine fatigue". This has been deleted in the current cabinet draft. Anyone who considers measles in Germany to be an epochal threat should take a deep breath. It's not all good, but not all catastrophic.
Who is fighting against whom?
Anyone who rejects a duty sometimes depends on scientifically refuted imitation-critical ideas anyway. An example is the association Doctors for individual vaccination decision e. V., in which many anthroposophic and homeopathic doctors are involved. Nevertheless, they have one point: A duty to vaccinate is a strong interference with the rights of the person, namely the right to physical integrity. Experts also point out that such an intervention should be treated with caution. So said Wolfram Henn, who led the ethics council working group on vaccination and Professor of human genetics at the University of Saarland, ZEIT ONLINE already in June, that compulsion is currently not required. Even if vaccination is a "moral duty" and a "model of solidarity", because it protects not only one but also others.
Nevertheless, one must ask: how dramatic is the intervention really? After all, we talk about a vaccine that has been used millions of times and has proven itself. Even in various states of the USA, the heartland of liberalism, there are already vaccination obligations. And besides, vaccination would not be the only compulsory measure that medicine knows. People who have certain infectious diseases must be reported by name. The Infection Protection Act has long provided for forced accommodation for non-transparent tuberculosis sufferers and people with extremely contagious diseases. And people who delude others in delusion are also treated against their will - with potentially far worse consequences than the short-term and harmless side effects of measles vaccination. And that also makes sense: Where the individual endangers the society, his own freedom must be limited sometimes.
The debate needs well-rested votes
Whether one can also argue in the vaccination, must decide wiser and more juridically skilled people. And that is exactly what it will come to. The association Doctors for individual vaccination decision e. V. has already announced a constitutional complaint. So the judges in Karlsruhe may have to decide if the measles law is lawful, and science will have to show how much the vaccination obligation brings.
Until then, in the debate above all the smart and rested voices deserve more attention. Those who say vaccination alone makes little sense. Instead, it would be necessary to introduce a system of reminders, because many young adults who do not achieve vaccination - without knowing it - are not vaccinated against measles. And you have to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. The good news: both are being worked on. In the future, it should be possible to save on the electronic patient record which vaccinations a health insurance provider has received. In addition, as the Law on Measles Protection provides, pharmacists may also be vaccinated in the future.