France Just Made 11 Childhood Vaccines Mandatory

The decision’s sparked debate worldwide. Here’s where most Americans stand on vaccination.

France Just Made 11 Childhood Vaccines Mandatory

Starting in 2018, French children will be legally required to complete 11 vaccines. That includes the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), polio and meningococcal C vaccines, among others universally recommended by health authorities.

The decision comes in the context of measles outbreaks across Europe, including almost 300 cases in France from January to June 2017 alone. However, it’s been met with mixed reactions, as about three out of ten French people still mistrust vaccines. Despite the new law, debates continue over the question of whether vaccination should be considered an issue of personal choice or public health.

How do Americans feel about vaccination?
A 2017 report from the Pew Research Center suggests most Americans support vaccination, but some parents still aren’t convinced. While the report focused specifically on the MMR vaccine, it’s a useful indicator of beliefs and attitudes related to this debate.

For one thing, the survey revealed over 88 percent of Americans believe the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks. Eighty-two percent support the requirement that all healthy school children complete the series, as well.

“This survey shows that the majority of people now reject the mistaken view that the MMR vaccine is dangerous,” says Keith Roach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Sharecare and member of Sharecare’s Scientific Advisory Board.

“That’s important because parents who are considering getting their children vaccinated respond strongly to their peers," he continues. "If they hear that most parents recognize the benefits of vaccination, they’ll be more likely to protect their child and, in effect, any children who cannot get the vaccine because of medical issues.”

One key group remains skeptical
Faith in the recommendations of medical scientists is strong across race, religion, political affiliation and education level. But parents of children ages 0 to 4 years, who may have the largest impact on vaccination rates, are less united than other groups. While 77 percent do support the MMR vaccine requirement, a surprising 43 percent still believe the risk of vaccinating to be medium to high.

“That number could be disastrous for public health,” says Dr. Roach. “If parents perceive a risk, it could drive down vaccine rates.”

The measles is a highly contagious disease; just a few unvaccinated people could spark an epidemic. “Once measles reaches vulnerable populations, it can spread rapidly, and there’s virtually no treatment for it,” he explains. “It’s unimaginable that people could die from a disease that’s so easily preventable.”

Measles can lead to life-threatening complications like:

  • Pneumonia, the most common cause of measles-related death among young children
  • Encephalitis, or swelling of the brain
  • A rare, but deadly condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which can happen years after a child recovers from the measles

The risks of skipping the vaccine don’t end there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Mumps can lead to deafness, meningitis, encephalitis and death.
  • Rubella causes fevers, rash, headaches and may trigger a miscarriage or birth defects if a pregnant woman is exposed.

Compare those with the possible side effects of the MMR vaccine: a sore arm from getting poked, mild fever, rash and joint stiffness. Rare side effects include a one in 3,000 chance of a seizure and a one in 40,000 chance of a temporary low platelet (a type of blood cell) count.

“We have over 50 years of experience with this vaccine,” Roach says. “It’s more effective and less likely to cause side effects than ever before. Even though it has possible risks, the benefits include saving your child’s life, along with the lives of those who can’t get vaccinated.”

Putting parents’ minds at ease  
Why do some parents still perceive a high risk? Roach cites a fraudulent 1998 article, published in the Lancet, which claimed to find an association between the MMR vaccine and autism. Controversial anti-vaccine celebrity statements followed, cementing fear in many parents’ minds.

However, the Lancet has since retracted the study and it’s been debunked through research from:

  • The CDC
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The Institute of Medicine
  • The World Health Organization

“Unfortunately, there are enough noisy people who are still making false claims that parents can get confused,” Roach says. “It's human nature to be afraid of something that you don't really understand, and that your friends and neighbors are concerned about.”

“But that's why it's promising that most people believe vaccines are safe, and that scientists are the people we should trust—not actresses or filmmakers,” he adds.

Here are 7 essential adult vaccines you need to know about.

Medically reviewed in February 2019.

More On

Grandparents, Get Those Vaccines


Grandparents, Get Those Vaccines
If you’re a grandparent, you’re always excited for a visit with the grandkids. But if you’re not taking care of your own health, you may be putting th...
The 5 Vaccines Adults Need


The 5 Vaccines Adults Need
Protect your health and stay well by staying up-to-date on these important adult vaccines.
Why Your Family Needs a Personal Health Record


Why Your Family Needs a Personal Health Record
The meningitis B (MenB) vaccine is required at some colleges and recommended at others. Like several other vaccines—including the MenACWY vaccine, HP...
The Timeline of a Meningitis B Infection


The Timeline of a Meningitis B Infection
Meningitis B (MenB) is a type of meningococcal disease that causes inflammation of the protective membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain ...
How to Get Your Teen Caught Up on Vaccinations


How to Get Your Teen Caught Up on Vaccinations
With the development and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination has been a major focus of public attention. While vaccines are on everyone’s mi...