France says that there are more cases of measles than whooping cough

After an exceptionally long weekend with little sign of the fun the region had hoped for in public health terms, France finds itself back on the front line of the battle against measles.

In a second straight weekend of large outbreaks, France has nearly 650 confirmed cases, with officials warning that hundreds more people may have been caught up in the epidemic. An outbreak, much like the one that has struck the United States, is being stoked by parents, for whom the vaccine is a socially unacceptable imposition. “Some parents deliberately refuse their children the vaccine,” said Guillaume Baldocchi, an expert at the the Pasteur Institute, which is helping with the outbreak. “They are those people who have the most difficulty accepting the experience of death.”

The escalating crisis has come in fits and starts for France, which borders a nation still grappling with whooping cough.

In November of 2016, France’s H1N1 vaccine was announced as the official answer to measles. Doctors called it a “big step forward” in stopping an epidemic that had been declared nearly eradicated in Europe less than a decade earlier.

But then, these same doctors worried that the vaccine would go against their biases — that health authorities would be vulnerable to paying too much attention to a group of people whose religious and cultural beliefs are deemed inconvenient.

In December, France’s health minister confirmed the fears when he seemed to downplay the role of the H1N1 vaccine in the resurgence of measles. “The security of the country and the population are not immune to the decision to use the H1N1 vaccine,” Frederic Cuvillier had said. “I wish to be clear, no vaccine is 100 percent effective.”

That vaccine was responsible for 35 percent of all measles cases this year. In March, when France saw a second wave of cases, it was still considered a lesser concern than pertussis. That number is now only 3 percent, indicating a risk that health officials say is much higher. Some 15,000 families of children have had their vaccination records placed on file — a common practice in France.

The governments of France and Germany have begun to coordinate efforts on vaccination, whooping cough and other outbreaks, which has led to some surprising departures of debate. When a German public television reporter asked a presidential candidate for his opinion, the man called for the vaccine to be offered in pharmacies rather than as a prescription. But then, the reporter followed up to ask whether the candidate intended to practice what he was preaching. The health minister replied that it didn’t matter to her if politicians were telling the truth, they should make sure that the people behind those efforts would be doing so in a safe environment.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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