Echoing a similar move by Australia, Italy's Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin has announced that any children without the appropriate vaccinations will not be allowed to attend state-funded schools. After a cabinet meeting, she told reporters that her authored white paper on the matter had been seen by ministers and that by the end of next week it will become law.
This comes as a direct response to a sudden measles outbreak that has gripped the nation. Compared to April 2016, incidences of measles in Italy were five times higher this year, and show no sign of slowing down. Lorenzin has claimed that it’s an “emergency generated by fake news,” and she’s certainly not wrong – there’s a strong anti-vaxxer movement festering within the country.
As is being seen in the US, measles is making a comeback thanks to unscrupulous politicians, disgraced researchers and bemused celebrities touting an unfounded link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In America, you have Trump and his erroneous proclamations. In Italy, you have the populist Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five Star Movement, and his very similar “concerns”.
Apart from nefarious naysayers talking down the MMR jab, a recent TV special on possible side-effects of the HPV vaccine – which is designed to protect against cervical cancer – proved to be nothing short of alarmist too. As a result of this airing, public trust in vaccinations has dropped even further.
Earlier government initiatives designed to widen the number of vaccines available via the country’s national health service have not appeared to improve matters. Fortunately, this new policy is likely to be quite effective, judging by Australia’s success.
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Back in 2016, it initiated a “No Jab, No Pay” policy, which meant that parents who refuse to inoculate their children would lose their child benefits. As a consequence, 200,000 more kids are now immunized, and the average vaccination rate in the country jumped to 92.2 percent.
Then, just this year, Australia announced that it would federalize a “No Jab, No Play” policy, which prevents non-vaccinated children from attending preschool or daycare centers. This is essentially what Italy is planning to do now.
Mandatory vaccination is likely to cause consternation among those who disagree that the government should be able to dictate healthcare to its citizens. However, we’d argue that – especially as vaccinations have no link to autism – the greater good here needs to be considered.
Some children cannot be vaccinated due to weakened immune systems or other ailments. As such, they rely on those that can to be vaccinated. Lower vaccination rates will result in more children dying, and in a country as developed as Italy, that is completely unacceptable.