The recent rise in the number of cases of measles, a disease which is easily prevented by vaccination, has led some Swiss politicians to call for compulsory vaccination, and fines for those avoiding them, according to the newspaper 20 Minutes.
Switzerland’s system of collective compulsory health insurance means the costs of the actions of individuals are borne collectively.
Over the first three and a half months of 2019, there were 138 registered cases of measles, more than 7 times the number over the same period of 2018. Two people have died from the disease this year.
A small percentage of the population, with immunodeficiency, cannot be safely vaccinated. These people, for whom diseases can be life threatening, rely on herd immunity for protection. Once a certain percentage of the population has been vaccinated, it becomes very unlikely they’ll contract the disease. Herd immunity varies by disease. In the case of measles, herd immunity is reached after 95% of the population is vaccinated. Currently, the rate for 2 year olds in Switzerland is only 87%. This leaves vulnerable people at risk of contracting measles.
“People who don’t get their children vaccinated are antisocial”, parliamentarian Ruth Humbel told the newspaper Blick.
Vaccine hesitancy, a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have one’s children vaccinated, is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top ten global health threats. The WHO says that measles has seen a 30% increase in cases globally. Some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.
Italy and France have already made vaccinations compulsory and Germany is likely to follow.
Swiss parliamentarian Lorenz Hess also voiced concern over the declining vaccination rate but conceded that it is difficult to force people to get vaccinated. Many other parliamentarians are not sure what should be done beyond generating greater awareness of the problem.