Written By Gaia Pianigiani
Around 300 children in Bologna, Italy, were not eligible to attend kindergarten this week because a temporary measure relaxing vaccination requirements expired and a previous, stricter law returned to force.
Dozens of other children across Italy were also likely to be affected, said Mario Rusconi, president of the Association of Head Teachers and Senior Staff in Lazio, Rome’s region.
A 2017 law made 10 vaccines obligatory for children who enrolled in Italian schools, a response to a worrisome decline in vaccinations nationwide and a measles outbreak that same year.
But last year, the Health Ministry, headed by a member of the Five Star Movement, one of the parties in the coalition government, adopted a temporary measure to allow children to stay in school as long as their parents attested they had been vaccinated. A doctor’s note was not needed.
That measure expired March 10, and the 2017 law now applies again.
Children cannot attend nursery schools unless they are vaccinated, and parents of elementary and middle school pupils risk fines of up to 500 euros if they don’t have doctor’s notes showing that their children were vaccinated against the required diseases.
In Bologna, officials said the 300 children did not present the official document attesting to their vaccination Monday, and so could not attend public nursery schools.
“Over the past year and a half, most parents have responsibly vaccinated their children and the number of vaccinated pupils has risen,” Rusconi said. “But there still are differences across regions.”
Exactly how many children across Italy were affected was not clear Tuesday.
The government is working on a law to introduce a “flexible obligation,” which would require children to get vaccinated only if the so-called herd immunity, a sufficiently high proportion of individuals immune to the disease because of vaccination, was lacking.
The details of the draft are unclear.
For years, confusion about vaccines has reigned in Italy. The co-founder of the Five Star Movement has mentioned the erroneous connection between vaccines and autism, while the current deputy prime minister campaigned against the 2017 law that made vaccines compulsory.
Newly released figures show that Italy is nearing, and in some regions has already reached, a national immunization rate of 95 per cent, the World Health Organization’s target. In 2017, vaccination rates were around 80 per cent.