Under new law, Austria will require all schoolchildren to be vaccinated against measles

Austria said Thursday it plans to require all its schoolchildren to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, sparking an international controversy after warnings it could provoke a scare that could cripple the global supply of the much-needed shot.

The country’s government said the law will be imposed starting in September, and offenders will face fines of up to $4,000.

Measles and mumps are two highly contagious diseases that have made a comeback in the U.S. and European Union in recent years, mostly due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. The law, which is being modeled on one in France, will forbid unvaccinated children from being enrolled in primary school.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 million new cases of measles occurred globally in 2016.

Before an outbreak in Disneyland that sickened more than 150 people in California in late 2015, the number of measles infections in the U.S. had been in decline since 2000. In 2016, there were 744 cases, and in 2017 there were more than 1,060.

U.S. public health officials have pointed to the alarming trend as a reminder that inoculations for diseases like measles are critically important.

“Improving vaccination coverage has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of measles cases every year,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles thrives during hot, dry summers, and researchers have found outbreaks frequently occur in regions with higher vaccination rates. In Europe, outbreaks occur in countries that have poor vaccination rates and poorly regulated vaccination policy.

Most adults who caught measles last year had received the vaccine as children, but that vaccination protection sometimes does not last into adulthood. The vaccine is only 100 percent effective once every two doses, compared with more than 99 percent effective with the first dose.

Researchers have discovered that adults who are vaccinated when they are young can become more susceptible as they age, as their immune systems weaken with age.

Many parents in the U.S. remain skeptical about vaccinating their children. And a small number choose not to have their children vaccinated for religious or other reasons. Some parents, like those opposed to vaccination, cite studies that have questioned the safety of the shots.

That skepticism led the World Health Organization and governments around the world to revise measles vaccination rules in recent years.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 million new cases of measles occurred globally in 2016.

In the United States, a vaccination bill was passed into law in December 2016. The federal measure allows parents who have a medical reason not to vaccinate their children to do so. In September 2017, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that will make it easier for parents in that state to opt out of school vaccinations for their children.

And in March, a federal judge in Alabama threw out a lawsuit that claimed the school law violates state constitutional rights and would be the first of its kind in the country.

The rollout of the law in Alabama this year led one of the nation’s largest measles outbreaks, including cases among 30 infants younger than one year. That prompted federal health officials to update their vaccine recommendation for parents of infants in the state.

In recent months, several states have introduced bills that would either expand the national vaccine law or set new exceptions to the rules, including allowing parents who are already immunized children to opt out of receiving the shots.

Critics have raised fears that parents are driven by religious beliefs and not medical needs and that the laws will lead to a loss of global control over the vaccine supply. One group, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, noted that the growing coalition of states who have proposed bills is very similar to that which led to measles outbreaks in Europe in the 1990s.

David M. Weaver, a spokesman for the Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents teachers, told reporters that Canadian teachers will object to the fact that public schools are expected to take a heavy financial hit to comply with the law.

Weaver said Canadian teachers have not been briefed on the implications of the Austrian measure.

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