Just last year, in the midst of ongoing measles outbreaks, Italian lawmakers cracked down on parents who avoided vaccinating their children enrolled in public schools. Parents would be fined if their children were not in compliance with 10 vaccination requirements by age 6.
On Friday, August 3, 2018, a new coalition of populist and conservative legislators in the Italian Senate reversed direction, passing a measure that would eliminate the requirement that parents demonstrate their schoolchildren are immunized. The measure was supported by the recently ascendant Five-Star Movement and the League (Lega). Five Star had promised, if elected, to address the vaccination requirements.
The lower house still has to approve the rollback, which would remain in effect for a year. The coalition has vowed that in the near future they will introduce legislation aimed at making more permanent changes to soften vaccination requirements.
Italian health minister Giulia Grillo, a physician, has stated that she supports immunization as an effective preventive health measure, but she has also expressed concerns about mandatory immunization requirements. Her party, however, has a history of associating vaccines with debunked ideas that immunization is associated with autism and other health problems.
Italy reported 1,715 cases of measles between January 1 and May 31 this year and 5,000 cases in 2017. Measles vaccination rates are low in Italy (85% coverage for children 12-23 months in 2016) compared with the United States (92%). Germany (97%), and France (90%). Most health experts agree 90-95% of a population must be immunized to prevent the spread of measles.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Monthly measles and rubella monitoring report. July 2018.
BBC. Italy makes 12 vaccinations compulsory for children. 19 May 2017.
John T. HHow anti-vaxxers could help decide Italy’s election. Time. 28 February 2018.
The Local. Compulsory Italian school vaccinations: How it works. 30 August 2017.
Oxford Vaccine Group. Herd immunity: how does it work? 26 April 2016.
Roberts H. Italy Senate overturns mandatory vaccination law. Financial Times. 6 August 2018.
World Bank. Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months, 2016). Retrieved 8 August 2018.