Italy:Populist coalition renounces anti-vaccination stance amid measles ’emergency’

16 Nov, 2018
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Italy’s populist coalition has called for nearly a million children and young people to be given vaccinations against measles amid an “emergency” over the rising number of cases.

The Five Star Movement and The League, which make up the populist government that came to power in June, have previously peddled conspiracy theories about the supposed risks of having vaccinations.

But they now seem to have renounced their scepticism, with the health ministry calling for 800,000 infants, children and young adults to receive vaccinations against measles.

“Given that there is a measles emergency, we will uphold the obligation for children up to the age of 16 (to be vaccinated),” said Vittorio Demicheli, a member of a ministerial commission of experts.

Adolescents and young adults aged up to 30 would also be urged to have the jabs if they have not already done so, he said.

Teachers and health professionals will also be required to have the jabs, the ministry said.

Both Five Star and The League have previously questioned the need for vaccinations, with Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and also deputy prime minister, calling them “useless and in many cases dangerous,” playing on discredited claims that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab can cause autism.

Four people died of measles last year, none of whom had been vaccinated.

Italy accounted for nearly a quarter of all measles cases in Europe last year.

The measles inoculation rate in Italy dropped to 91% last year, well short of the 95% that the World Health Organisation says is necessary to avoid outbreaks.

Over the summer the populist coalition was accused by health experts of sending Italy “back to the Middle Ages” after announcing plans to roll back compulsory vaccination laws.

The government was criticised by many regional authorities who were in favour of the jabs.

“Halting compulsory vaccinations to surrender to the no-vaccination lobby sends us right back to the Middle Ages,” said Stefano Bonaccini, the governor of the northern region of Emilia Romagna.

In the face of relentless criticism, the coalition performed an embarrassing U-turn in September, scrapping its proposed reforms.

But with measles cases still rising, the government has come in for harsh criticism from health experts, teachers and opposition parties.

“They’re crazy,” former centre-Left prime minister Matteo Renzi wrote on Twitter this week after another eight cases emerged in Bari, in the southern Puglia region.

“They need to renounce their ‘no-vax’ stance. Science is right, they are wrong.”

A midwife working at a hospital in central Italy was sacked this week after refusing to undergo vaccinations.

The decision to dismiss her was backed by Dr Roberto Burioni, a leading vaccinations expert.

“A health professional who refuses vaccinations is not just an inexcusable ignoramus, but also close to criminal.

“The presence of an unvaccinated person in a ward where pregnant women give birth is like lighting a match in a petrol depot.”

In Britain, there has been a similar debate on the need for vaccinations, with the proportion of children having the MMR immunisation falling for the fourth year in a row.

The proportion of children under two receiving the MMR jab is now down to 91.2%.

That has led to a measles outbreak in England, with nearly 900 cases confirmed this year – triple the number detected the year before.



This entry was posted on Friday, November 16th, 2018 at 4:31 pm and is filed under Latest News.

Literature Literature archive

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MJ Bayefsky, LOGostin 2018 JAMA Pediatr. online Dec 28, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4283
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