With mass measles outbreaks across the world, the UN has urged families to vaccinate and not fall for any anti-vaxx disinformation. This disinformation, they believe, has resulted in the Ukraine having the highest increase in measles cases between 2017 and 2018 at 30 338 cases, while Brazil hadn’t had any cases in 2017 but surged to a total of 10 262 in 2018. Fearing the same fate, on Monday 11 March Italy introduced a new law demanding parents to vaccinate their children. Health Minister Giulia Grillo put it simply: “No vaccine, no school.”
The new rule, under Italy’s Lorenzin law, means children must receive the mandatory immunisations before attending school. These vaccinations include ones against polio and measles, of course.
Children in play- and preschool, up to the age of 6, must have proof that they’ve received all their vaccinations, while older children between 6 and 16 will not be barred from school but their parents will receive a fine of up to €500 (around R8 000).
BBC News reports that the new law has increased vaccinations as Italy had hoped it would, bringing them closer to the World Health Organisation’s 95% target. Of course, the decision did not go without protest from anti-vaxxers, but the Italian government stood by their decision. The 95% threshold serves as the point at which herd immunity – when enough children in a community are immunised against a disease so that infection can no longer travel through that community – kicks in. This will also protect babies too young to be immunised, as well as the immuno-compromised.
The BBC also reported that an 8-year-old recovering cancer patient was unable to go back to school last month. He had a weaker immune system and with too many pupils who had not yet been vaccinated in his class, it would have been too great of a risk for him to attend school.
In South Africa in particular, we have a high incidence of immuno-compromised children, which is all the more reason why those who can, should be vaccinated.
So when a law such as this is passed, some parents want to exercise their right to not vaccinate their child. But weighed against the fact that vaccinations has prevented and will prevent disastrous consequences for the greater society, we fully support Italy’s bold decision.
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