The hexa vaccine, a simultaneous vaccination for children targeting six serious diseases including whooping cough and Hepatitis B, has been administered in the Czech Republic for seven years. But increasingly, Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál reports, groups of parents are coming out against, for fear of “overburdening” their child’s immune system or of serious side effects.
Opposition to the hexa vaccine is small but has grown Czech Radio’s flagship Radiožurnál reported Monday: around 170 people annually. Weeks before a Constitutional Court is expected to rule whether vaccination will continue to be mandatory for toddlers to attend daycare or nursery schools, there is no doubt some would like vaccination to be a decision up to parents alone; the Human Rights League in the Czech Republic points to Germany and Austria as examples where that is the case.
In the Czech Republic, however, it was not that long ago that the question was addressed by the Supreme Administrative Court. In February it upheld mandatory vaccination while acknowledging, as with any medical procedure, there was always a measure of risk. The country’s Health Ministry, seven years since the hexa vaccine was introduced, agrees that is minimal, as does the country’s chief hygiene officer Vladimír Valenta.
Speaking to Radiožurnál, the chief hygiene officer said that the hexa vaccine vaccination had been crucial. He told Czech Radio this:
“Simultaneous vaccination prevents the incidence of a number of serious infectious diseases. We have had no recent incidence of tetanus, childhood polio or diphtheria. And we have seen a marked drop in opportunistic pathogens like Haemophilus influenza.”
As for negative side effects, the chief hygiene officer said there of course had been some but that in most cases were minor.
“In 2013, we registered roughly 200 cases where side effects were experienced: the overwhelming majority were minor where you can experience redness or soreness in part of the body. More serious reactions were by far the exception.”
Some parents, previously opposed to the hexa vaccine, have gradually come around. One mother told the broadcaster that she and her husband thought long and hard about their child getting the shots, having heard about cases where children had experienced high fevers, spasms, or more serious neurological problems. In the end, they opted in favour, not least because of reports that illnesses such as whooping cough had reemerged in the Czech Republic.
“A number of serious illnesses have returned, so that was one reason. Another reason was that vaccination is mandatory if you want to enroll your child at nursery school.”
Most pre-schools, not surprisingly, are in favour of restrictions remaining in place: there is no doubt in many teachers’ and parents’ minds that vaccination is absolutely essential, with one Prague daycare head telling Czech TV about a recent incidence of hepatitis. Ministers in the government have also sent their recommendations to the court, including the Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier:
“It’s not just about the rights of parents who want to decide on whether their child should be vaccinated against serious illness. It is also about the protection of other kids. ”
Overall, the government has recommended that legislation should not be struck down; but that decision will be up to the Constitutional Court within the next few weeks.