Italy’s cabinet has approved a law obliging parents to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases as politicians spar over a spike in measles cases.
Children up to six years old will now need to be immunised to be eligible for nursery school, and parents who send their children to school after that age without vaccinating them first will be liable for fines.
Vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and meningitis, which were previously only recommended, will now become mandatory, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.
“The lack of appropriate measures over the years and the spread of anti-scientific theories, especially in recent months, has brought about a reduction in protection,” Mr Gentiloni told a news conference in Rome.
The law will also oblige inoculation against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, whooping cough, and haemophilus influenzae type B.
Italy’s Higher Health Institute warned in April that a fall-off in vaccinations had led to a measles epidemic. The United States warned visitors to Italy about exposure to the potentially fatal disease.
The institute has recorded some 2395 measles cases so far this year compared with some 840 in all of 2016 and 250 in 2015.
Mr Gentiloni’s centre-left government has accused the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of sowing fear among parents by questioning the safety of some vaccines and the scruples of multinational pharmaceutical firms.
In New Zealand, discussions around vaccination have been a hot topic recently after a screening of discredited documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe caused controversy.
Claims vaccines cause conditions such as autism and bowel disease made in the 1990s have been proven to be fraudulent. Andrew Wakefield, who made the claims, was struck off the UK medical register and barred from practising medicine.
After the prolonged death of an unvaccinated young Australian woman earlier in 2017, Dr Eloise Williams wrote in a Medical Journal of Australia report: “Achieving whole-population vaccination is instrumental in preventing measles infections through the development of herd immunity.”
Herd immunity for measles needs at least 96 percent of the population immune, giving the virus few chances to spread and mutate. It is especially important for babies, pregnant women and others who can’t receive vaccinations.
Reuters / Newshub.