Photo: Spanish Health Minister Alfonso Alonso (left) and Russian embassy representative Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov met to discuss how to obtain medication for the diphtheria-stricken child. / J.J. Guillén (EFE)
A six-year-old child diagnosed with diphtheria remained “in a very serious condition” on Wednesday morning, said sources at Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona.
The child is the first recorded case in Spain of the infectious disease since 1987, when the last two patients were treated.
EL PAÍS has learned that the reason the child had not been immunized against the disease is that his parents oppose vaccines.
Vaccination rates in Spain are between 90 and 95 percent following systematic public health campaigns that began in 1945. Thanks to these efforts, the dangerous disease had been eradicated. Diphtheria attacks the respiratory system and several of the body’s organs, and can prove fatal.
In recent years, campaigns against vaccinations – due to their perceived health risk – have gained ground among parents, particularly in the United States. General secretary for the health service, Rubén Moreno, called these campaigns “irresponsible.” He continued: “The consequences of not vaccinating a child can be dramatic. The right to vaccination is for children, it's not for the parents to decide.”
The child who has become the first to contract diphtheria in Spain for 28 years has developed heart and lung problems as well as kidney failure and is being kept alive connected to three different machines.
The boy is being treated with medicines flown in from Russia because Spain was not equipped to deal with an outbreak of diphtheria.