Child vaccinations in the Netherlands
If you are moving to the Netherlands from abroad with your children, vaccinations may be something you need to think about in addition to organising health insurance.
Countries around the world have different policies on child immunisation, including different schedules for when children should receive each vaccine from birth. In the EU alone, there is no consistency between the member states, leaving it up to the parent to investigate.
The laws in Netherlands
In the Netherlands, vaccinations are not compulsory, they are however recommended. Whilst parents have a choice, the government has started an initiative to educate parents in the Netherlands about vaccinations and has made it mandatory for parents to inform the daycare centres and schools of their decision.
In the Netherlands, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, known as the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM) is responsible for immunisation and there is an extensive inoculation plan for children who are born here.
The National Immunisation Programme includes protecting children from 12 potentially dangerous diseases:
› Diphtheria (D)
› Pertussis (whooping cough) (aP)
› Tetanus (T)
› Polio (IPV)
› Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
› Pneumococcal disease (PCV)
› Hepatitis B (HBV)
› Mumps (M)
› Measles (M)
› Rubella (German measles) (R)
› Meningococcal disease (MenC)
› Human papillomavirus (HPV)
For children in the Netherlands, all vaccinations are free and the schedule starts as early as six to nine weeks and continues at regular intervals; three months, four months, 11 months, 14 months, four years, nine years, and 12 years. A detailed schedule of vaccines can be found on the RIVM website.
Coming from Abroad
If you are coming from abroad with your children, it may be that you followed a different immunisation schedule for them in your home country. In this case, the RIVM suggests that you seek medical advice to ensure that your child is given an equal opportunity to receive adequate protection. If you relocated from another country in the EU, you can compare schedules and recommended vaccinations in the Netherlands with your own country via a comparison website created by the EU.
The vaccination debate
The topic of vaccinations has received much media attention, particularly in the States where vaccinations are now mandatory. The debate is a highly heated one. In 2014, there was a conference, The State of Health of Vaccinations in the EU, held in Italy to talk about vaccination programmes in Europe. As a result the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015-2020 was put into place.
What is a vaccination?
A vaccination is a preventative measure to ensure that people are safeguarded from diseases. Though the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that no vaccine is 100% effective, each works on the basis that by injecting a portion of the bacterium or virus into the body, the immune system will recognise it as foreign, allowing the body’s white blood cells to create antibodies designed to fight against the antigen.
In other words, a vaccination gives our immune system a head start in fighting against the disease if we come in contact with the real thing later on because we have already produced the antibodies to fight against it.
Arguments for vaccinations
According the WHO, vaccinations can be credited for the decline in harmful diseases. They claim that vaccines are vigorously tested and proven safe before being licensed and introduced to vaccination programmes around the EU. They do however admit, that there can be side effects to vaccinations, claiming most are minor, with some rare cases of mild or more serious reactions.
The WHO believes that because the number of vaccine-preventable diseases continues to decline, there are rising concerns about the risks associated with vaccines, and thus people are becoming less fearful of the actual diseases vaccines are meant to prevent.
Arguments against vaccinations
The idea of protecting your children against harmful diseases seems logical and many that are on the side of the anti-vaccination movement would not oppose this. The arguments however, derive from the idea that one should be given the opportunity to let their own immune system fend off diseases, rather than have vaccinations.
Furthermore, there is concern regarding the ingredients of vaccinations, such as heavy metals like mercury and aluminium, which some argue are highly toxic and related to disorders like autism. There have been cases related to various vaccinations, along with thousands of reports by mothers to support this. In the Netherlands, there is a website called Vaccin Vrij where you can find out more.
To learn more about vaccinations for your children, contact your local doctor.