Make vaccination a condition for childcare, committee advises

Parents are too free to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child, an investigative committee on childcare and vaccination said in a report on Monday. Participation in the National Vaccination Program should be made a condition for access to childcare, the committee advises. If this has no effect, the Dutch government should consider a "general vaccination obligation laid down by law", NU.nl reports.

It is up to the government to better inform parents about the importance of vaccinating their children against infectious diseases, the committee said. This responsibility does not lie with childcare. "It is undesirable to place the choice of any measure on childcare's plate. The reduced vaccination rate is a social problem that does not only affect childcare."

According to the committee, the vaccination rate is currently in the "orange scenario" - the vaccination rate has fallen, but is not yet at the critical lower limit, committee chairman Roos Vermeij explained. Last week public health institute RIVM announced that, after years of decline, the vaccination rate remained stable last year at 90.2 percent. The committee is "pleased" that the vaccination rate stabilized, but remains concerned about the too low degree. "We must ensure that we end up in the green scenario and meet the standard that we apply in the Netherlands." That is a vaccination rate of 95 percent - the minimum required for group immunity against measles, according to the World Health Organization.

The researchers found that the main reasons parents decide not to have their kids vaccinated are religious or other belief system objections, concerns about possible side effects, a lack of trust in the National Vaccination Program, and because parents no longer see the need to vaccinate now that the diseases are rare. 

Parents who do have their children vaccinated do so out of concern about the consequences for their child if they pick up a contagious disease at childcare. They fear that their children will become seriously ill, die, or be left with permanent effects from an illness. Parents also say they want to protect their children from the pain and discomfort that serious illnesses entail. 

In response to the report, State Secretary Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs said that an "inextricable problem is emerging". She and State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health received the report on Monday. "When it comes to solving this problem, I am looking for the key, but it must be a key that fits", Van Ark said. "I do feel that we can get started with this. We will come with a response as soon as possible."

Blokhuis said that "we have to put our shoulders to the wheel" to prevent ending up in "code red". "If that happens unexpectedly, we will have to talk about more obligatory measures, but I hope it doesn't come to that." Blokhuis again appealed to parents to have their children vaccinated according to the National Vaccination Program. "With that you protect your own children and other children. I call that an example of charity."

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