Health

Italys governing parties struggle to find path forward on vaccines

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A year after Italys governing parties took power pledging to repeal mandatory vaccinations, they cant figure out how to meet that promise.

While the 5Star Movement and the League are united in their pledge to not force parents to inoculate their kids, theyve so far been unable to forge a policy that satisfies both public health concerns and their populist base.

“Our position has always been that we are for reaching the maximum vaccine coverage through the approach of advising the population,” said Piernicola Pedicini, a 5Stars member of the European Parliament, in an interview in Italian. But, he added, “This is a long process … It is costly and hard.”

A persistent measles outbreak is complicating the governments effort to unwind Italys compulsory vaccination law after the country recorded the second highest number of new infections among EU countries in 2018.

The 2017 Lorenzin decree, named after former Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin, made 10 vaccines mandatory for children between 0 and 16. It mandated children between 0 and 6 be excluded from day care and kindergartens if their parents dont provide a proof they were vaccinated, and fines for parents of children between 6 and 16 years old.

“I will never be complicit in a death that could be avoided thanks to the use of vaccines” — Giorgio Trizzino, doctor and a 5Star member of the Italian chamber of deputies

The Italian Senate is working on finalizing a draft law to repeal the bill this month, but policymakers are squabbling over new amendments put forward in late March.

The draft law, proposed in August by five senators from both the 5Stars and the League, would shift the countrys vaccine policy to one of “flexible obligation.” It aims to convince people to vaccinate “through communication plans inspired by the principles of transparency and independence of information sources, in order to consolidate the trust in the National Health Service in the matters of vaccination prevention and its reputation,” the text reads.

The draft law leaves open the door for the government to temporarily introduce an obligation to vaccinate for emergencies such as measles outbreaks.

However, a new amendment put forward by 5Stars senator and president of the Senates health committee, Pierpaolo Sileri, as well as two League senators, undermines potential emergency measures by abolishing the need to provide proof of vaccination for children to go to school even if theres a public health emergency.

The amendment has caused a political rift by challenging a fundamental tension in the proposal: how to ensure that kids dont lose their right to education because of their vaccination status, while ensuring any emergency requirements still have teeth.

“The only reason to make a monovalent vaccine would be a political reason, because someone without rational reasons asks for it” — Roberto Burioni, Italian virologist

“If you remove from the law the obligation to provide a certification of vaccination for kids to have access to day care and kindergarten, there will be no deterrent for parents who do not want to have their children vaccinated even when [and where] vaccination is compulsory,” said Vincenzo Salvatore, a lawyer leading the health care and life sciences team at Italian law firm BonelliErede.

The amendment seems in line with the position of League leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who in early March asked Italys Health Minister Giulia Grillo to postpone the deadline for vaccination certificates to be required under the Lorenzin law. She refused that request.

Giorgio Trizzino, a doctor and a 5Star member of the Italian chamber of deputies, vowed to oppose the new amendment. “I will never be complicit in a death that could be avoided thanks to the use of vaccines,” he wrote on Facebook on Sunday. Stating that “absurd ideological positions could cause avoidable deaths,” he said: “I cannot allow that on our conscience.”

The GIMBE Foundation, a non-profit working on health issues, slammed the amendment as proof that childrens health is being held hostage to political compromise between the two governing parties. It suggested in a statement Monday that Sileri proposed the amendment to please anti-vaxxer politicians among the 5Stars and the League.

In response to the outrage, Sileri said Tuesday he is considering a U-turn. “We are working on a possible modification of the amendment to the vaccine bill, maintaining the compulsory vaccination certification for school attendance only for measles,” he told news agency ANSA.

That in itself leads to a new problem: The measles vaccine is not provided in itself, but as one component of a shot also including mumps and rubella.

Italys Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini | Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images

“I [want to] inform you that the measles-only vaccine does not exist, it will never exist and if it existed one day only the madmen would inject it for reasons that I will explain to you soon,” said Roberto Burioni, a well-known Italian virologist. He explained in a radio show this week that the trivalent vaccine has proven safe and effective, and that breaking the three jabs into single shots would mean more injections for children, a cruel measure that also increases the risk for infections. “The only reason to make a monovalent vaccine would be a political reason, because someone without rational reasons asks for it,” he said.

How far, how fast

Italy saw 2,600 measles cases reported between February 2018 and the end of January 2019 — second only to France, a country that also raised the number of mandatory vaccines from three to 11 last yeaRead More – Source