Vaccinations are nowadays one of the most important preventive measures against infectious diseases. Protection develops through immunization of the body against the pathogen. In epidemiology, the vaccination coverage of a population contributes significantly to achieving so-called herd immunity. This community protection also protects individuals from infection who are unable to be vaccinated. The goal of herd immunity is the long-term elimination of pathogens. In the past, achieving herd protection through consistent and worldwide vaccination programs has already eradicated quite a few diseases. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set itself the goal of halting the global spread of measles and rubella. To achieve this, community protection in the form of an immunity rate of at least 95% must be in place.
Requirements of the D-A-CH countries
In Germany, the new measles protection law has been in effect since March 1, 2020, which requires measles vaccination. For all children over the age of one, proof must be provided when registering at a daycare center or at the latest when starting school. Persons born in 1970 or later who work in medical or community settings or as teachers, educators or caregivers must also provide proof of double measles vaccination. The same applies to asylum seekers and refugees.
In Switzerland and Austria, there is currently no obligation to provide proof of immunization against measles. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination is recommended from the age of 9 months and can be repeated free of charge at public vaccination centers at any time during adulthood. Measures to eradicate measles have been discussed in the Austrian National Measles/Rubella Elimination Action Plan.
Current measles wave in Austria
In recent weeks, there have been new confirmed cases of measles in Styria. The infections can be observed in unvaccinated persons, among whom several children have fallen ill. Meanwhile, several cases have also been reported in Carinthia and one in Vienna. The Ministry of Health has called for free immunization and in some cities special vaccination campaigns are being held without registration. After only one case was reported in the last two years and the last outbreak with 40 cases took place in 2019, this year we can speak of a renewed wave of infections. The loosening of the mask requirement and the declining vaccination coverage rate in recent years are likely contributing to the incidence of infection.