Galicia wants to become the third autonomous community of Spain that requires children to be vaccinated to be able to enter their public nurseries. While in Castilla y León and Extremadura this requirement is in force since 2012, jurists of the Xunta seek legal reserve taking into account that in Spain the immunization of children is voluntary, a condition that, according to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) ), prevents extending the measure to the stages of compulsory education.
The pediatricians applaud the step that the Galician Government intends to give, but warn that it is only a gesture to raise awareness and that it does not resolve any conflict because there is not. "Here there is no public health problem. It does not happen to us like Italy or France, where coverage has dropped so much that they have important outbreaks of measles and they have no choice but to put some mandatory vaccine, "explains Francisco Álvarez, member of the Vaccine Committee of the AEP.
The Galician government also recognizes that including compliance with the vaccine schedule among the requirements to enter their day care centers "does not intend to tackle a problem" because in this community the percentage of children up to three years who have received this protection is around 99%. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Health, the Spanish average coverage at these early ages is 97%. In Extremadura, where not only is it required to formalize the enrollment that families accredit that the child has been given all the recommended injections but also their "formal commitment" to do so during the time they go to the center, the figure up to 3 years is Approximately 95% In some territories such as the Valencian Community, public nurseries ask families if the children are vaccinated, but only for information purposes.
The Xunta is waiting for a legal report although it understands that there will be no legal problems to introduce vaccines as a requirement in the decree that regulates the admission to nursery schools of its competence thanks to the jurisprudence accumulated in recent years. Sentences of the superior courts of Catalonia and La Rioja endorsed in 2000 and 2002, respectively, the refusal of two nurseries to accept the entry of some girls who did not have this protection. Recently a court in Barcelona has done the same in the case of a municipal center. "The collective right of children to health is prioritized over the individual of parents to ideological freedom", underlines a spokesman of the Ministry of Social Policy of the Xunta, which hopes to apply the measure the next course if the opinion arrive on time.
The Dutch dilemma
Legislation on vaccines across the globe is mixed. According to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, there are 12 countries in the European Union that have a mandatory calendar (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia).
In the Netherlands, where these sanitary protections are voluntary as in Spain, the Government evaluated in 2018 the possibility of imposing immunization so that children would be accepted in nurseries. The National Institute for Health and Environment had noted the decline in vaccination rates throughout the country, in some injections such as the triple viral (mumps, rubella and measles) went from a coverage in 2014 of 96% in children under 5 years to 92.9%.
The matter came to Parliament, but the center-right coalition in power did not agree on the measures to be taken. The Ministry of Health argued that children can also be infected outside of kindergarten and that prohibiting them from entering the school violates the principle of non-discrimination protected by the Constitution, since there are communities that reject these protections for religious reasons. Finally, it has been decided to improve the information to the parents both in the medical consultations and in specific campaigns, Isabel Ferrer informs.
The debate about the obligatory nature of vaccines also intensifies in the United States. In 17 of its 51 states, families can choose not to vaccinate their children by appealing to their beliefs or personal convictions, but according to a newspaper published a few days ago The Washington Post, outbreaks of measles that have occurred in some parts of the country have multiplied the legislative initiatives to try to restrict these exemptions.
The Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) does not consider it necessary for Spain to modify its vaccination system making it mandatory because the coverage is "very good" and the change could cause "rejection". Francisco Alvarez, expert in vaccines of this organization, the measure that tries to implant Galicia seems to him "excellent speaking with the heart", although also it confesses certain legal doubts: "They are very few children those who are not vaccinated, but I recognize is a form to raise their parents' awareness so that they think that vaccines are necessary and well informed, that they do not fall into snobbery and do not get confused because there is no healthier life than using vaccines. " And as a way to promote without forcing, this pediatrician cites the example of Australia, which like Spain has a high percentage of children vaccinated. There the families that comply punctually with the calendar of injections are gratified with tax rebates.
With information from Javier Martín-Arroyo, Mikel Ormazábal, Ignacio Zafra, Oriol Güell, Juan José Mateo, Javier Doria, Lucía Bohórquez, Virgina Vadillo Y Pedro Murillo