GIOVENTU » Children Vaccination dilemma continues

Children Vaccination dilemma continues

As schools reopen, the Italian children vaccination dilemma rumbles on. Italy has introduced this year compulsory vaccination for 10 vaccines for children attending school up to age 16 in an effort to combat what it described as misinformation about vaccines.

The new regulation came as an answer to the measles outbreak, this year, which has recorded three times more than the measles cases in 2016. The number of two-year-olds vaccinated against measles had dropped from more than 90% to below 80%. This was well short of the World Health Organization's recommended coverage of 95% or more.

Italians’ perception of the safety of vaccinations was heavily influenced by discredited claims of a connection between the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism.

The 10 conditions children must be immunised against are: polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae B, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough and chickenpox. As originally ruled, children were not accepted into nursery or pre-schools without proof of vaccinations, while parents of children legally obliged to attend school would face hefty fines for noncompliance. Now things have changed and parents can self-certify the compliance with compulsory vaccination. 

In July, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, spread confusion about the government’s policy by saying that there were too many compulsory vaccinations. He added that there are 15 European countries that do not even have a single mandatory vaccine and that Italy now has more compulsory vaccinations of any country in Europe. Salvini also expressed the concern that some multinational or pharmaceutical company may have chosen Italian children as a testing ground.

In August, the government passed an amendment allowing parents to self-certify instead of providing a doctor’s note. A final vote on that measure later this month is likely to postpone the obligation to provide proof until March 2019. Pre-schoolers must be vaccinated, although their parents are not required to provide proof from a doctor. 

Chaos has characterised the start of the school year. In some cases, parents falsely claimed that pre-school children had been vaccinated. Also, in Bologna about 1,000 children with impaired immune systems have been forced to stay away from school due to uncertainty over whether their classmates had received vaccines against viruses including measles.

Vaccine regulations differ widely across Europe.

According to a 2010 survey of 27 EU states, plus Norway and Iceland, 15 countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations; the other 14 have at least one. The most common mandatory vaccine is against polio, followed by diphtheria and tetanus.
Now Italians are divided between those who think parents should have the right to decide whether to vaccinate their children and those who think immunization programmes should be decided by the government, as it has better access to information.

Giulia Lombardo

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