France has taken an important step in the fight against measles by suspending 3,000 health workers that refused to be vaccinated. The move comes as part of a vaccination campaign that will also see children under 15 years old being offered free vaccines across France.
“This is the first time we have applied such a measure,” said Agnès Buzyn, France’s public health minister. “It shows how seriously we are taking this.” The community health workers refused vaccines as they were, and still are, part of a movement that fears the risks associated with vaccinations. France has been fighting back against the spread of such misinformation in recent months, and this is one way it can hopefully put an end to those falsehoods.
Some 3,000 French health workers have refused to be vaccinated against measles, putting the public at risk, officials have warned. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn announced that “radical measures” had been taken to counter the refusal of some health professionals to vaccinate. The action comes amid a major drive to get more people inoculated with two doses of vaccine after France suffered Europe’s biggest outbreak of measles in seven years.
The number of measles cases in France tripled to over 23,000 in 2008-2009 compared with the previous year when there were just 7,500 infections. That rise has been attributed to a drop in people taking up the offer of vaccinations following the MMR-autism scare that came to prominence in 1998 when a doctor published claims linking the vaccine with autism. The doctor was struck off the medical register in Britain after his work was found to be flawed and there have been numerous studies carried out since that have failed to find any link between the two.
France hit back at the anti-vaccination movement last year when one of its biggest selling newspapers, Le Parisien, announced it would no longer carry advertising for alternative therapies after coming under pressure from doctors. The editor of the paper said he had decided to take the step after consulting with health ministry officials about the “dangers” of continuing to give air time to promoters of pseudoscience.
France’s current drive to combat measles follows a similar campaign in Britain which has seen vaccination rates rocket to their highest levels since the vaccine against the disease was introduced in 1968.
Britain experienced a measles epidemic that began at the end of 2008 and peaked during January 2010, when over 1,200 people became infected every week. The vast majority of these cases occurred among young people who had not been immunised with MMR during infancy because of the scare that caused vaccination rates to plummet.
Since then, however, there has been no sign of any significant levels of measles among the general population. And last year officials announced they can now give youngsters can protection against whopping cough along with mumps and rubella in one injection at the age of 14 months instead of having to give them three separate jabs.
The aim is to bring the UK in line with other countries, including France , where children are immunised at two and a half rather than three years old. Campaigners have called the new jab an important step in public health which will mean parents of babies no longer have to face multiple trips to their GP to get all three jabs.