Italy Just Took A Major Step Toward Protecting Kids From Disease

Italy's parliament just gave final approval to a pretty critical program, and its reasoning for allowing the new program is pretty simple. On Friday, the government of Italy approved a mandatory vaccination program to protect kids. The decision will make a series of childhood vaccinations mandatory for school children in the European country up to age 16. And, based on years of evidence when it comes to vaccination rates in the country, it will likely have a major impact on the health of a lot of children there.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the move is meant to counter an anti-vaccine trend in the country that has led to some pretty dangerous results. The number of children being vaccinated has fallen since mandatory vaccines were dropped as a requirement for school admissions almost 20 years ago. This new program will hopefully reverse that trend.

Global News reported that the new measures come after "an intense public debate over vaccines," and following a measles outbreak in the region. That outlet reported that the government approved making 12 vaccines — including measles, rubella, and chickenpox — mandatory as of this September for any children attending Italian schools, from pre-school through the second year of high school. Other required vaccines in the program include tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and hepatitis B.

The Washington Post, however, reported that, in the end, the list included 10 vaccinations, since officials dropped two diseases from the initial list of 12: meningococcal B and meningococcal C.

Protecting more kids from preventable diseases seemed to be the aim of the program. According to The Washington Post, "Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said the vote provides “a shield for our children against very serious diseases that are still among us.

One of the reasons some parents are afraid to have their children vaccinated is because of junk science that claims vaccines cause like autism. According to WebMD, there have been plenty of studies that have shown there is absolutely no link between autism and vaccines, but misinformation persists.

So it's especially great that, according to The News Tribune, during the legislative process to pass this latest program, Italy's highest court also issued a ruling that found absolutely "no connection between childhood vaccines and autism."

According to Global News, Lorenzin said children will not be accepted into pre-schools or nursery school without some proof of vaccinations, and certification will be required every year throughout their schooling. Plus, parents of children legally obliged to attend school will face fines for not complying with the program.

The move is a very timely one when it comes to trying to protect children in the region. According to an article by CNN in April of this year, an outbreak of measles that spread across Italy resulted in more than 1,600 cases of the disease in 2017 alone, across 19 of the 21 regions in the country. Notably, of the 1,603 cases reported as of April 16, 88 percent were known to be among unvaccinated individuals.

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The new program has definitely sparked intense debate, and according to The Washington Post, one top health official, Sonia Viale, said the measure was “a return to fascism." Which is pretty extreme to say the least.

But the country has clear evidence, after years of not requiring vaccinations for kids to attend school, that not making them mandatory has caused massive outbreaks and endangered the lives of a lot of people, including children. If its aim is to protect more of the country's citizens, including some of the most vulnerable among them, then this mandatory vaccination program may be a step in the right direction.