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Africa

Do vaccines do more harm than good? France launches national debate

media French Health Minister Marisol Touraine leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

France's Health Minister has announced a national debate this Autumn to discuss the future of the country's immunisation policy, amidst mounting criticism over vaccines.

"I realize there are doubts over vaccines, and that this is more acute in France than any other European country," Marisol Touraine told the French daily Le Parisien on Saturday.

To allay fears, Touraine has said she will organize a national debate this coming Autumn to give citizens the opportuinity to debate whether vaccines should still be compulsory.

Currently children are required to have certain vaccinations done before enrolling in school. But wary parents concerned about the possible side effects of these vaccines want to protect their child from any possible risk.

The Health minister however says it's time to inject a dose of reality into the rumor-driven debate. "Transparency is the best medicine to treat unfounded scientific arguments," she said.

Skeptics argue that vaccines benefit large pharmaceutical companies, and do nothing to protect people's health.

"Getting vaccinated is not a luxury, nor is it purely an individual choice," Touraine challenges. "The well-being of the nation depends on it."

She's concerned that if citizens do not fulfill their social obligation of getting themselves and their children vaccinated, it could see the return of previously eradicated diseases like measles, mumps and rubella.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, the successful trial in Guinea of a vaccine to fight Ebola has renewed hopes of ending the deadly scourge. A success that Touraine will be hoping to flag up in September when she goes head to head with the French public.

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