THE PARENTS of two young children are being prosecuted for failing to get their children vaccinated against tetanus, polio and diphtheria, a legal obligation in France.
Samia and Marc Larère, from Yonn, Auxerre, are being charged with negligence after refusing to vaccinate their 15-month-old and three-year-old children because they are concerned about the side effects.
They risk penalties of two years in prison and a €30,000 fine.
The couple, who eat organic, favour alternative medicine and have not made their decision on religious grounds, said they were motivated by studies that showed that vaccinations can make children ill rather than protect them, and that they contain dangerous ingredients including mercury and aluminium.
They also said they are wary of the ‘power’ of pharmaceutical laboratories in France.
The case is expected to spark a national debate, and the couple’s lawyer will refer to their constitutional right to health during their trial in Auxerre.
Children in France cannot attend school without the mandatory vaccinations, though Ms Larère said that they knew parents who had faked vaccination certificates. Some doctors are known to write fraudulent certificates stating that a child is allergic to the vaccinations.
France and Italy are the last western countries to make vaccinations obligatory and over the last 20 years, anti-vaccination campaigners have gained ground, said France Info and 3-5% of children are not vaccinated against tetanus, polio and diphtheria.
Parents argue that the three diseases have become very rare, but the health authorities respond that this is because children are vaccinated against them.
France’s official vaccination advisory board, the Conseil Technique de la Vaccination, recommended calling a halt to obligatory vaccinations last month, but its head, Professor Daniel Floret, said if France stopped vaccinating, the diseases would return. He also suggested vaccinating against more deadly diseases, including whooping cough.
On the official list of vaccinations there are 11 others that are only “recommended” even though they cover diseases that are as dangerous as the three obligatory ones, including hepatitis B, which kills 1,300 each year.
Children in France are not given vaccinations at the same ages as children in the UK, so parents who move over with young children can meet complications working out how to get them covered without doubling up on doses.
You can find out more about which vaccinations children need and how much they cost – as well as information on all aspects of the healthcare system - in our detailed new health helpguide, which is available for €7.50 from Friday in print version or as a download here
Pre-order the limited-edition print version by calling Nathalie on 06 40 61 71 97 from today (€7.50 plus P&P).