A new law in Italy requires children to be properly vaccinated before they can attend school, following a surge in measles cases.
The law was brought in following months of national debate over compulsory vaccination, with officials saying vaccination rates have improved since its introduction.
Under the law, children must receive a range of mandatory immunisations before attending school, including but not limited to: vaccinations for measles, mumps, polio and rubella.
As reported by the BBC, schools may turn away and exclude children under the age of six if their parents cannot provide proof of vaccination.
While children between the age of six and 16 cannot be banned from attending school, their parents risk being fined up to €500 (£425) if they send their unvaccinated children to school.
The Lorenzin Law – named after the former health minister who introduced it – was enforced because of a surge in measles cases, with officials now saying vaccination rates have improved since its introduction.
Measles is a highly contagious (but preventable) viral disease; routine vaccinations for children are key in reducing the number of deaths caused by the disease. But with people trusting vaccinations less and less, many are failing to vaccinate their children.
So why aren’t we doing it? The World Health Organization describes the vaccine as ‘safe, effective and inexpensive’, yet there is a growing distrust of vaccinations which the organisation says are based on ‘pure misinformation’.
Health Minister Giulia Grillo reportedly resisted pressure from Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini to extend the deadline of the law – yesterday (March 11) – saying everyone had the time to get vaccinated.
She told La Repubblica newspaper, via the BBC, the rules were very simple:
No vaccine, no school.
Vaccine-preventable diseases include:
Here are 5 facts on vaccines you need to know pic.twitter.com/T5uZFZeLzT
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 18, 2019
The new law has already resulted in the suspension of some students; in Bologna, where 5,000 children do not have their vaccination documentation up to date, suspension letters have been sent to the parents of 300 children.
In other areas, there have been no reported cases of suspension, while others have been given a ‘grace period’ of a few days beyond the deadline.
And the law is clearly working. Before it was introduced, Italy’s vaccination rates were below 80 per cent; now, the BBC reports the Italian health authority have released figures claiming a national immunisation rate which is very close to the World Health Organisation’s 95 per cent target.
Hopefully the numbers will only continue to improve.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).