As part of a World Health Organization campaign, the Swiss authorities, doctors and chemists are urging people to get their measles jabs. The goal is for 95% of the population to be vaccinated against the infectious disease by 2015.
The Federal Office of Public Health launched on Thursday in Bern the Swiss campaign to eradicate measles by 2015 – which would require an 85 to 95% immunisation rate. This would result in just a few isolated cases of the disease.
The office said that it wanted to remind people that the infectious respiratory disease is not harmless, and that it can even be fatal.
During the 2010/2011 measles wave, a 12-year-old girl died. Without vaccinations, the office says that 20 to 30 people would die every year. For infected adults, there are more likely to be serious complications such as inflammation of the middle ear, lungs or brain – sometimes with permanent damage.
Over the next three years, the federal and cantonal governments will invest CHF2 million ($2.24 million) in the campaign encouraging people to get their measles shots. The campaign posters show people missing out on activities such as work, beach holidays and weddings.
The Swiss authorities are also asking the public to think about other people – for example, those in places with poor healthcare systems. One case a few years ago saw inhabitants of a Brazilian slum infected with measles brought from Switzerland.
There have been discussions about mandatory vaccinations in Switzerland, but as the health office points out, this could be counterproductive. Up to 5% of the Swiss population simply refuses to get inoculated – and the new campaign does not target them.
Around 85% of the Swiss population is already immune thanks to previous infection or vaccination. Another 8% have been inoculated at least once. The goal is to motivate these people get a second vaccination, which costs CHF140 – during the campaign, shots will be entirely paid for under compulsory health insurance scheme.
Immunisation rates differ from canton to canton and are below 80% in Appenzell Ausser Rhoden, Bern, Graubünden, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Uri and Thurgau. In French-speaking Switzerland, the rate tends to be higher than in the German-speaking part of the country.