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Italy cracks down on unvaccinated schoolchildren

Lewis Sanders IV
March 13, 2019

Across Italy, parents are falsifying vaccine documents to prevent their children from being blocked from attending school. Under a new law, parents can be fined thousands of euros for not vaccinating their children.

A person receive a vaccination
Image: picture-alliance/ROPI/Maule/Fotogramma

Authorities across Italy on Wednesday imposed controls on unvaccinated children after a new law went into effect earlier this week. The law stipulates that minors aged 16 and under must have 10 mandatory vaccinations in order to attend schools, nurseries or kindergartens.

Instead of vaccinating their children, several parents have submitted falsified health documents in a bid to keep them in school. Under the law, parents could "self-certify" that the child was vaccinated, however, some have been caught after using forged documents.

In the Italian town of Belluno, public prosecutors launched investigations into verification processes at schools after 17 parents submitted "self-certified" documents that falsely stated their children had received the mandatory vaccinations. Other provinces have reported similar cases.

According to authorities, thousands of schoolchildren have not received the mandatory vaccinations, which include those against measles, tetanus, polio and hepatitis B. Parents can be fined up to €3,500 ($3,955) for not vaccinating their children.

Read more: Italian health czar resigns over government's 'anti-scientific positions'

Anti-vaccination protesters in Rome
Protesters have opposed the law, saying they should be given the choice whether to vaccinate their childrenImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/A. Ronchini

'Health interventions'

But not everyone is on board with the measures. Last year, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that "10 vaccines for children are too many" and "sometimes even dangerous." He has said there needs to be more legal flexibility to account for parents' choice on whether they want their children vaccinated.

Days before the law went into effect, Salvini called on Health Minister Giulia Grillo, a 5 Star Movement (M5S) lawmaker, to relax the regulation to allow children under the age of 5 to attend kindergartens without the vaccinations. She said while there may be shortcomings with the law, it is up to parliament to decide the way forward.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "vaccination is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available, saving millions of people from illness, disability and death each year."

However, the so-called anti-vaccination movement has gained steam in recent years. The WHO said in February that the total number of people infected with measles has risen to the highest in a decade. Earlier this month, the UN said measles is witnessing a global resurgence due to "vaccine hesitancy." The measles vaccine is around 97 percent effective in preventing the highly infectious disease.

Read more: Next flu pandemic 'a matter of when, not if,' says WHO

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