On Monday, the Italian Senate passed a large bill that, among other things, delayed the implementation of the Italian vaccine mandate passed in 2017 until the 2019-2020 school year. This short post explains what this means – and does not mean.
In response to a large measles outbreak in Italy that killed about 1:1000 (around 8 in the past year) and hospitalized thousands, the Italian government then in power passed a law that mandates that children 0-6 be vaccinated with ten vaccines (before that, four were required) before attending daycare or school. It also imposed fines on parents of children 0-16 who were not vaccinated with these vaccines.
In the 2018 election, two anti-establishment parties joined the coalition government. One, the 5 Star Movement, includes people who are openly anti-vaccine. It’s not clear to what extent their anti-vaccine views affected their election results, but among other things, the party promised to roll back the Italian vaccine mandate.
As a first step, the new health minister allowed parents to self-certify vaccines for the 2018-2019 school year – to declare whether or not their children were vaccinated (in a sense, rewarding dishonest anti-vaccine parents over honest ones).
The new Italian Senate law included many things, but the most important issue is that they delayed the implementation of the mandate for the school year 2019-2020. Importantly, the law will not become effective until it passes Italy’s lower house, which is on recess until September 11, 2018, so it will not apply in the school year 2018-2019.
During the current year, the mandate still applies, as does the self-certification decree, probably. But if it becomes law, it will mean that the law is not applicable the following year, giving the new government a chance to try and overturn the mandate completely.
Naturally, medical societies – as well as politicians from other parties – are concerned about the repeal of the Italian vaccine mandate.
The measles outbreak, which was the impetus for the original law, is still going strong. In fact, the CDC has issued a level 1 travel warning for Italy because of this ongoing outbreak.
Several people in Italy have died recently from the measles, and many were hospitalized. Almost all the cases are in the unvaccinated, including those too young to be vaccinated. This is not a great time to roll back the Italian vaccine mandate intended to protect children and contain the outbreak.
Update – 6 September 2018
Italy today reaffirmed that the vaccine mandate applies in 2018-2019 and children 0-6 need to be vaccinated. It also removed the option of self-certification, requiring that parents provide a doctor certificate showing children are vaccinated.
However, the government still announced its intent to revisit the mandate in future.
Update – 9 September 2018
The Italian Parliament relaxed its change of direction – self-certification will be allowed during the current school year. The mandate, however, is still in force, at least until March 2019.