Some 267 families have responded to the Government call for urgent immunization against measles after 12 new confirmed and suspected cases were reported in  the capital Skopje. Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce ordered that children who have not received the MMR vaccine can’t attend kindergarten, and this caused chaos in the Skopje clinics.

Subsequent lab tests have shown that of the 12 suspected new cases, two are negative and two have been confirmed. In the Bucharest clinic in Skopje some 20 children were immunized only in the first few hours of the day, but parents were upset over the long lines.

I was not allowed to take my child to kindergarten and was told to come here for a vaccine but this is not working. We need to have double shifts in the clinic because we all have to go to work and we are not able to stay here with our children and wait for a long time. The lines are very long, said one parent of a child who was waiting to receive the vaccine on Thursday.

The government announced fines ranging between 350 and 650 EUR for families who do not immunize their children, but it is believed that about 15.000 children have not received the MMR vaccine, so the number of recently vaccinated children in the past few days remains extremely low.

The measles epidemic caused significant anger on social media where parents were exchanging reports about whether they think the vaccines are safe. A contributing factor to the concerns is a reckless public relations campaign which the Healthcare Ministry began during the September referendum to rename Macedonia. In billboards, the Ministry called citizens to vote in favor of changing the name of the country, promising that after the name change and the membership in the European Union, Macedonians will have access to safe and reliable vaccines, This billboard backfired badly because it raised questions about whether the vaccines which are currently in use are indeed safe.