The Italian government is facing criticism after it voted through legislation meaning parents will no longer have to prove their children are vaccinated before starting nursery or preschool.
The coalition government, made up of the Five Star movement and the League, has long been against compulsory vaccination, pledging to overturn the law in the run up to March’s elections.
The law which will now be suspended for a year, came into effect in March following a surge in the number of measles cases in the country.
The coalition government, made up of the Five Star movement and the League, approved the amendment by 148 to 110 votes.
Under previous law, parents were required to ensure their children had 10 vaccinations before beginning nursery. This law was introduced after official figures from 2017 outlined a sharp increase in the number of reported cases of measles, which rose from 870 in 2016 to over 5,000 last year.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the Five Star Movement and one part of the Italian government coalition, is known for his strong stance on vaccination. He’s previously used words such as ‘useless’ and ‘dangerous’ to describe compulsory vaccination. In the run up to previous elections, Salvini pledged to overturn the law and was widely popular with ‘anti-vax’ voters.
While the amendment won’t become law in time for the start of the next school year, it has caused controversy as doctors warn of the negative effects of inoculation. Scientists and medical personnel warn that children could be at risk of infection.
Dr Mark Muscat from the World Health Organisation told Euronews: “We are very concerned with Italy because the number of measles cases that are being reported over the last years, especially last year over 5,000 cases were reported and this year in the first 6 months we have over 2,000 cases reported. We have also had 4 people dying of measles last year and another 4 people have died this year. This is of great concern to us. It’s very important that every country reaches a very high vaccination coverage.”
“We have to remember that vaccines have been life saving. Vaccines are the most effective public health tool. They are safe and effective and have prevented thousands and millions of deaths across the globe.”