PARIS – Children born in France as from Monday will now receive 11 compulsory vaccines, up from three prior compulsory shots, or risk being barred from French nurseries or schools; the French government’s announcement seeks to stamp-out growing nationwide skepticism towards vaccines and one of the world’s highest vaccine rejection rates.
French minister of Solidarity and Health, Agnes Buzyn, announced the measure seeking to extend vaccine coverage further than the current 70 percent of child population already vaccinated.
“I do not like to impose obligations, it goes against my character but with vaccinations it is justified,” Buzyn pointed out adding that no repressive measures had been taken out against non-complying parents apart from warning them they won’t be able to enroll their children at any creches, nurseries, schools or Summer camps, both private or public.
The eight new compulsory vaccines are: polio, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza bacteria (flu), pneumococcus and meningococcus C, which are now incorporated on France’s mandatory vaccine list along with diphtheria (since 1938), tetanus (since 1940) and poliomyelitis (since 1964).
Buzyn added there was no need to include additional penal or financial punishment.
In theory, the French penal code provides up to two years in prison and a 30,000-euro fine to anyone trying to avoid vaccinating their children without a legitimate cause and although sentencing is very rare in these cases, French state monitoring will begin next June 1.
It was French Prime minister, Edouard Philippe, who last July 4 announced these measures in response to the growing domestic skepticism towards vaccines. Phillipe said it was “unacceptable” that children in France were “still dying of measles” (between 2008 and 2016, 24,000 cases were declared in France of which 10 cases died). Phillipe evoked the name of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist credited with the research and development of the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax in the 19th century.
According to a 67 nation study published in 2016 by the publication “EBioMedicine,” 41 percent of France’s population considered vaccines unsafe.
Another 2016 official French poll revealed that 24.7 percent of the population was unfavorable to vaccines compared to 8.5 percent back in 2000.
Behind this backlash, there may be some health scandals involved such as the Mediator affair, a product designed to treat diabetes but heavily prescribed for losing weight or the 2009 vaccine program fiasco to treat the Avian flu pandemic.
Among other issues French health authorities have sought to debunk in recent months is the popular belief that infectious diseases have nearly been eradicated thanks to widespread hygiene measures and not due to vaccines, or the idea that inoculating an agent resembling a disease-causing microorganism, engineered from its weakened or killed forms, toxins, or surface protein antibodies, may compromise the full development of a newborn baby’s immune system.
According to French officials, another popular misconception is that aluminum hydroxide used as a vaccine adjuvant (a human immune booster response) might produce muscle damage.
On the other hand, the French farmaceutical academy pointed out in 2016 that no cause-effect relation had been established, and was only aware of one case back in 2012, adding that humans could also be exposed to aluminum through food or cosmetics.
This change in French health legislation came as a virtual imposition by the French Council of the State that on Feb. 8 gave the French executive a six-month deadline to clarify its policy towards vaccines, after legal action entered by an association supporting “Natural medicine.”
The French Council of State considered either the list of compulsory vaccines for 18-month babies should increase or measures should be taken ensuring each potential disease can be dealt with by a specific vaccine for each disease, something that apparently can’t be done.