Massimiliano Fedriga is a senior member of Italy’s far-right Lega Nord and president of the north-eastern Fruili-Venezia Giulia region. He is also a high-profile critic of the country’s mandatory vaccination law introduced just this month.
Now, in some cruel twist of irony, Fedriga had to be admitted to the hospital to recover from a nasty bout of chickenpox – one of the 12 diseases included in "Lorenzin law". He recently took to Facebook to announce his hospitalization, after spending a total of four days under observation.
"I'm fine, I'm at home in convalescence and I thank everyone," he wrote.
"Lorenzin law" was first proposed in 2017 by Italy's then Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin of the Popular Alternative party, who served in Italy's then ruling coalition with the Democratic Party.
At the time, Italy was in the center a measles outbreak (one that is arguably still continuing), which saw 5,393 incidents and five deaths in 2017. To put it into perspective, that is roughly the same number of measles cases reported in the whole of Europe in 2016.
The law was put into practice on March, 10, 2019 so that today, parents must provide documentation to prove their child has received the full set of vaccines. A child without will not be allowed to attend kindergarten or school. If that child is aged 7 to 16 years old, parents will also be subject to a fine.
For his part, Fedriga is vehemently opposed to the legislation and has been extremely vocal in his criticism, going as far as to call the Democratic Party "Stalinist" for introducing the policy – revealing his grasp of history is just as loose as his grasp of science.
However, following his stint in the hospital, Fedriga has been quick to point out that he would not describe himself as an anti-vaxxer. Neither is he opposed to vaccines period. Instead, he says, his beef lies with the mandatory nature of the program, which "imposes" the policy on families.
"I am reading a series of comments on Twitter celebrating because I’ve been hospitalized," Fedriga wrote.
"I have always said that I am in favor of vaccines, but to achieve the result it is necessary to have an alliance with families not imposition."
He adds that his own children have received their inoculations: "They even said I would get chicken pox from my children, not knowing that my children are vaccinated (as I have stated in interviews)."
But personal stories aside, many critics of Fedriga argue that both his and his party's dismissal and outright opposition to "Lorenzin law" – however they may personally feel about vaccines – is enabling anti-vaxxers.
Indeed, one of Italy's biggest anti-vaccination groups, Comilva, endorsed the Lega Nord in the runup to the recent elections. An unsurprising move when the party's leader, Matteo Salvini, described a policy of mandatory vaccines as "useless and in many cases dangerous".
The Lega Nord's populist coalition partners, the Five Star Movement (M5S), have similarly received criticism for their role in the anti-vaccination crisis. In 2015, the party even went so far as to propose a law against vaccines based on non-existent links between vaccinations and various health-related ailments.
In another Facebook post, Robert Burioni, an Italian microbiologist, wrote, "Dear President, first of all, let me wish you a speedy recovery."
Adding, "if he had infected a pregnant woman we would be facing a malformed child or an abortion."
"The only way we have to avoid these tragedies is to inoculate everyone to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which could have hit a much more vulnerable person."