Posted on September 1, 2017

Many people love its fashion, passionate culture, and delicious food, but, depending on your personal feelings about childhood vaccinations, you may not be so thrilled with Italy’s recent legislation. Despite a growing movement of people against vaccinations in the United States and other European nations, Italy has decided to heavily fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against 12 preventable diseases including measles, chicken pox, polio, and tetanus.

During a press conference, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Genitoloni stated that “anti-scientific theories,” which he believes have been spread over the years by the populist 5-Star political party, have helped “endanger” the health and lives of the public. This belief is based on a rise in measles outbreaks in Italy over the past few years. In 2016, there were 840 cases of measles reported, while in 2017 alone, 2,000 cases have been reported. Because of this, the United States has issued warnings to travelers heading to Italy on vacation or business travel.

Italy’s Mixed Signals

What is particularly interesting with Italy’s recent legislation, is that in 2014, an Italian court in Milan awarded compensation to a boy for vaccine-induced autism. After all parties plead their cases, and based on expert medical testimony, the court decided that the mercury and aluminum in the vaccine did, in fact, cause brain damage and autism.

The Court also noted that GlaxoSmithKline’s Infanrix Hexa, given to children in the first year of life to protect from polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, pertussis and Haemophilus influenza type B, contained thimerosal, now banned in Italy because of its neurotoxicity, “in concentrations greatly exceeding the maximum recommended levels for infants weighing only a few kilograms.”

Two years earlier, in 2012, Judge Lucio Ardigo of an Italian court in Rimini presided over a similar judgment, finding that a different vaccine, the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine (MMR), had caused a child’s autism.

One wonders how or if these rulings align with the recent legislation, and what, if any impact, will all have on legislation here in the United States. As more refugees from areas of the world like Somalia are potential sources of vulnerability against disease – for example Minnesota is experiencing a rise in confirmed cases of measles and some are pointing to the large Somali community as ground zero – will parents also be forced to vaccinate their children or face fines or even jail time? In 2016, a couple in France received a two-month suspended jail sentence for refusing to vaccinate their infant and toddler against diphtheria, polio, and tetanus.

Only time will tell, but it’s safe to say that the topic of vaccination will continue to be a hot one.


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