In Romania, a new bill regulating the vaccination of children will be posted for public debate within a month, the Healthcare Minister has announced
Romania is witnessing a disquieting fall in the child vaccination rate, which prompted the authorities to draw up legislation constraining parents to get their children immunised against some of the most dangerous infectious diseases, the head of the Romanian Microbiology Society Alexandru Rafila announced last spring. The statement came amid reports pointing to diphtheria cases in Europe both in 2015 and 2016, some of them even resulting in child deaths, to cases of polio in neighbouring Ukraine and to an epidemic hotbed in Romania itself.
The beginning of the year found Romania struggling with a measles outbreak, with 2,300 cases and 15 deaths reported in January. And the situation is getting worse, partly because of the countrywide shortage of some of the vaccines.
The Healthcare Ministry is now working on a bill making vaccination compulsory. If the bill is signed into law, 9 vaccines will be compulsory: against hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and tuberculosis. These vaccines will be included in a list of requirements for enrollment in kindergartens and schools. Exceptions will only be permitted if families bring medical proof that there are contraindications for a specific vaccine in their case.
The bill will be posted for public debate within a month, said the Healthcare Minister Florian Bodog, and the date when the programme is launched depends on the settlement of the vaccine shortage:
"I cannot force people or assign compulsory tasks to healthcare units in this respect as long as there are no vaccines in the country. So we will solve this situation and in a month's time, at the latest, we will have the Vaccination Law under public debate. The specialized parliamentary committees will decide whether the law will include penalties for families who fail to have their children immunized, after they have discussed the issue with patient associations and parent associations and other stakeholders. We will submit a version of the text only when we have at least an estimated date when all vaccines are available."
Rejecting vaccination may entail penalties. Similarly, the public healthcare units that fail to store vaccines in appropriate conditions and the doctors involved in vaccination programmes who do not comply with the law, risk facing penalties.