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HEALTH

France plans to make 11 vaccinations compulsory for children

France’s new health minister wants to make 11 vaccinations compulsory for children rather than leave the decision in the hands of parents.

France plans to make 11 vaccinations compulsory for children
Photo: Esben Klinker/ Depositphotos

Currently only three child vaccinations are obligatory by law in France: diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

But new health minister Agnes Buzyn said this causes “a real public health problem”.

She wants to extend the number of mandatory vaccinations to 11 to include immunisations against conditions such as measles, hepatitis B, meningitis C, rubella, mumps and whooping cough.

At present these vaccinations are only recommended by the state and the decision whether or not to inoculate a child is left in the hands of the parents, who are often swayed by theories and scare stories about health risks of certain vaccines.

“This double system is unique to France,” the minister Buzyn told Le Parisien newspaper. “It poses a real public health problem,” adding that measles is coming back.

Since 2008 measles has caused the death of 10 children in France.

“We have the same problem with meningitis. It’s not acceptable that a 15-year-old teenager could die just because they have not been vaccinated,” the minister said.

The announcement comes a month after Italy introduced a new law that forces children to be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enroll in state schools.

If parents do not follow the rules they will be subject to fines.

Reacting to the controversial law Italian expert on infectious diseases Alberto Giubilini said the government was justified to coerce parents into vaccinating their children.

“The benefits of vaccination in terms of protection from infectious disease outweigh the costs and risks of vaccination,” he said. “For instance, the World Health Organisation estimates that between 2000 and 2015, measles vaccination prevented more than 20 million deaths.”

But the health minister’s plan will no doubt not go down well with everyone.

“As soon as we talk about a vaccination obligation, it triggers a row,” Professor Alain Fischer, president of a body that advises on vaccinations.

“Unfortunately there are no other solutions to combat the upsurge in childhood diseases. It is a short term evil for a long term good “he said.

HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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