Since 2008, France has been facing a significant outbreak of measles. In the last 5 years alone, over 23,000 cases have been reported. Prior to 1968, measles was rampant throughout the entire country, but when the vaccination for measles was introduced at this time, this made considerable progress in controlling the disease (Antona, 2013). However, France has yet to eliminate or come very close to eliminating measles, as a result of a low level of trust in the government and health officials, which are inspiring families and parents to decide what is best for their child.
As a first world country, it would seem logical that France would follow suit in the United States’ declaration of measles elimination back in 2000. However, France does not share the same political scene as the United States, thus contributing greatly to its current state. From the years leading up to present day, 1986 to 2004, the disease came under closer surveillance, as a result of general practitioners administering the vaccine more often. In the years of 2006 and 2007, it was believed that cases were becoming even more rare, as only about 40 cases were reported in both years. However, the year 2008 proved otherwise, as the numbers of cases began to rise significantly (Antona, 2013).
The measles outbreak in France can be attributed to many factors. According to the Health Ministry, people are deciding to not vaccinate for a number of reasons that range from downright negligence, to concrete opposition. For many parents in France, there is a great distinction between compulsory vaccinations and the recommended vaccinations. Compulsory vaccinations are those for tetanus, polio, and diphtheria, while recommended vaccinations, such as MMR, are not as necessary (Antona, 2013). Thus, this presents a grave threat to the well-being of many children, as many parents do not understand just how dangerous this disease can be.
Some parents in France mistakenly believe that measles can be relatively mild, as they had it once in their childhood and were able to recover. This erroneous thinking is dangerous, as it leads to less importance being placed on the disease. In addition, many parents believe that, falsely, MMR is actually more of a threat than measles. Hence, many parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children against measles, as they believe they know what is best for their child, and in modern history, measles has not been too large of a threat.
To add to this dilemma, some parents are completely distrustful of health authorities, the government, doctors, medicines, vaccines, and pharmaceutical companies. Researchers have found that there is a distinct correlation between those who practice homeopathy, and those who oppose the MMR vaccination (Antona, 2013). In fact, many parents falsely believe that contracting measles is a natural process in childhood, and may actually be beneficial.
Health authorities have attempted to combat these beliefs through media, such as websites and even letters to parents; however, there is still some blurriness on the issue for parents, as these attempts fail to address their misconceptions. To complicate matters further, there are strong anti-vaccination movements in France that frequently sabotage health campaigns and any counter-actions. Also worth noting is the fact that parents who choose to not vaccinate are not just from one demographic; rather, they range from both the wealthy to the poor (Antona, 2013). Consequently, this is a very severe and layered issue that is affecting children from a range of backgrounds.
In summary, the recent outbreak of measles in France is widely attributed to several key factors, such as low trust in the government and health officials, erroneous beliefs in the disease, and an overall misconception of the severity of measles. Hopefully, a greater level of trust can be placed in health authorities by French residents, which will lead to more vaccinations, and ultimately control the outbreak.
- Antona, D. (2013). Measles Elimination Efforts and 2008–2011 Outbreak, France – Volume 19, Number 3-March 2013 – Emerging Infectious Disease journal – CDC. Retrieved November 19, 2015, from http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/19/3/12-1360_article