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Infectious diseases: enormous vaccine gaps in hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents
According to a current analysis by the Barmer Krankenkasse, there are significantly larger vaccine gaps in Germany than was previously known. According to the experts, hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents have not or only incompletely been vaccinated against dangerous infectious diseases. Many toddlers are even completely unvaccinated.
Not or incompletely vaccinated against measles
Despite increasing vaccination rates, there are significant vaccination gaps in Germany among hundreds of thousands of small children and adolescents. This is clear from the Barmer Medicines Report 2019. As the health insurance company wrote in a statement, more than every fifth child born in 2015 was not or incompletely vaccinated against measles in the first two years of life. Extrapolated on the basis of data from Barmer insured persons, in 2017 there were almost 166,000 two-year-olds without complete measles protection nationwide.
The eradication of certain infectious diseases is made impossible
It also showed that every fifth two-year-old, i.e. just under 81,000 girls, was not completely vaccinated against rubella.
According to the information, 3.3 percent of the children born in 2015 had not received any of the 13 vaccinations recommended by the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) in the first two years. That corresponds to almost 26,000 unvaccinated girls and boys.
"In Germany there are still too few children vaccinated," said Prof. Dr. Christoph Straub, CEO of Barmer.
“This makes the eradication of certain infectious diseases impossible and prevents protection for all those who cannot be vaccinated. We need target group-specific vaccination campaigns to reduce skepticism and possible fears about vaccinations, ”said the expert.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn agrees. He thinks health insurance companies can help prevent measles from spreading through information campaigns and cooperation with schools.
"No child has to suffer from measles these days," the politician is quoted on the website of the Federal Ministry of Health. "Vaccination has to become everyday life for everyone," says Spahn.
Vaccination gaps even in older children
According to the pharmaceutical report of the Barmer, there are not only vaccination gaps among the smallest, but also among older children.
In 2017, children of school age were not vaccinated at 90 percent in any of the 13 most important infectious diseases.
An immunization rate of at least 95 percent would be required for sufficient herd immunity, which also offers protection to non-vaccinated people.
"The vaccine gaps in small children in Germany are larger than previously known," said the author of the drug report, Prof. Daniel Grandt, chief physician at Saarbrücken Clinic.
"Based on the methodology chosen for the analyzes, the BARMER pharmaceutical report provides an image of the actual vaccination rates for the first time," said the doctor.
In the often cited school entrance examinations, the vaccination rates would only be determined on the basis of the submitted vaccination certificates. However, the vaccination status of children who do not have a vaccination certificate is not taken into account.
According to Grandt, this leads to higher, unrealistic vaccination rates, because children who have not been vaccinated naturally do not have a vaccination certificate.
Prevented millions of deaths
According to the drug report, only 88.8 percent of six-year-olds in Germany had the recommended measles vaccine protection in 2017. The immunization rates ranged from 79.7 percent in Saxony to 86.4 percent in Baden-Württemberg and 91.0 percent in Schleswig-Holstein.
“Measles vaccinations have prevented around 21 million deaths worldwide since the turn of the millennium alone. A measles but also a rubella disease is not an inevitable risk to life, but a failure of health care, ”said Straub.
After all, this is also about protecting vulnerable people who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons or who could not make a vaccination decision for themselves due to their age.
Risk of regional epidemics increases
According to the report, there are vaccination gaps not only for measles, but also for mumps. In 2017, only 88.7 percent of six-year-olds were vaccinated against mumps.
Although the STIKO provides for vaccination against both diseases up to the age of 17, with the exception of Saxony, where there is an explanation of the country-specific vaccination calendar, practically no vaccinations were given after the schooling.
According to the Barmer CEO, this is also extremely worrying because the children and adolescents will keep their vaccination gaps even in adulthood and the risk of regional epidemics increases if an illness occurs.
Vaccination for certain groups of people
In the future, school and kindergarten children should be better protected against measles. That is the goal of the Measles Protection Act, which the Federal Cabinet passed.
The law stipulates that parents must prove that they have been vaccinated before admitting their children to a daycare center or school from March 2020.
The obligation to vaccinate also applies to child minders and to staff in daycare centers, schools, medical facilities and in community facilities such as refugee accommodation.
Violations can result in high fines of up to 2500 euros. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Barmer health insurance: BARMER drug report 2019, (accessed: 10.08.2019), Barmer
- Federal Ministry of Health: Vaccination must become everyday life for everyone, (accessed: August 10, 2019), Federal Ministry of Health