Tag Archives: Beppe Grillo

TIME: How Anti-Vaxxers Could Help Decide Italy’s Election

Italy’s Lega Nord party (Northern League) Matteo Salvini answers questions at the Foreign Press Association in Rome on February 22, 2018. Salvini and his coalition run for the March 4, 2018 vote aimed at electing Parliament and Senate members. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Autism Investigated Note: Read the editor’s piece for The Epoch Times last summer on how mandatory vaccination will affect Italy’s upcoming election. Ignore the pro-vax tone of the TIME article below.

By TARA JOHN

In late 2015, Italian virologist Roberto Burioni took part in a Q&A with young mothers on a Facebook group and was alarmed to find many of them spouting conspiracy theories about vaccinations. The measles shot, they said, gives children autism.

The 55-year-old decided to take a deeper look online and realized there was an ecosystem of Italian anti-vaccination groups on the social media site. In spring 2016, Burioni sat down, fired up his laptop and began debunking anti-vaccination conspiracy theories on his public Facebook page.

“I started writing because I was fed up of social media being at the hands of people telling lies,” Burioni, who is a professor of microbiology and virology at the Vita-Salute University San Raffaele, Milan, says during a phone interview. “All the voices [online] in Italy were against vaccination. There was no debate and I did what I could to start one.”

Just over two years later that debate has gone from an online feud to a live political issue in the Italian general election due on March 4. As skepticism about vaccines has become widespread in Italy, so-called “anti-vaxxers” have become a voting bloc for the populist parties vying for votes. As a result, two of the leading populist parties — the far-right League (formerly the Northern League) and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (5SM) — have pledged, if elected, to scrap a law passed in July that made ten vaccinations compulsory for children under the age of 16. If they do, health experts warn it could be a huge step backwards in the global fight for children’s health.

Vaccine skepticism in Italy dates back to a debunked 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield that linked the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shot typically given to children after their first birthday to autism. The discredited idea took hold among an “intellectual fringe” in Italy, says Andrea Grignolio, a medicine historian at the La Sapienza University of Rome. The skeptics tend to be “rich and older parents,” he says, “who are susceptible to both alternative treatments, like homeopathy, and conspiracy theories.”

The waters surrounding the issue of vaccination were muddied further by a 2012 court ruling in the city of Rimini, northeast Italy, that a child’s autism had in fact been caused by the MMR vaccination. The Rimini ruling was overturned in 2015, but the judgement had by then done its damage. According to Grignolio, vaccine skeptics today make up 5% of the population while vaccine hesitancy— which the WHO defines as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services”— is estimated to affect a further 10% of Italy’s 60 million-strong population. ‘That’s millions of people,” Grignolio says.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise, then, that measles has made a troubling comeback in Italy. Cases jumped nearly six-fold from around 870 cases in 2016 to more than 5,000 cases last year. In the last six months of 2017, Italy was ranked sixth-highest worldwide in measles cases after India, Nigeria, the Ukraine and China. The mandatory vaccine legislation, nicknamed the Lorenzin law after the country’s health minister Beatrice Lorenzin, was introduced last year to combat the troubling increase.

EPOCH TIMES: Italy’s New Mandatory Vaccine Law Will Fuel A Populist Backlash

(Courtesy of Health Freedom Idaho)

Autism Investigated Note: A new day, a new epoch! Autism Investigated’s editor breaks his two-year hiatus from contributing to The Epoch Times to describe Italy’s growing populist movement against mandatory vaccination.

On July 28, a new law passed final approval in Italian parliament that will impose steep fines, school segregation and exclusion from daycare on families who refuse to vaccinate their children according to the Ministry of Health’s schedule.

In the months leading up to the law’s passage, the measure was met with stiff resistance and mass protest by opponents who correctly argue that the law would infringe on their personal liberties. With a strong populist opposition movement already surging in Italy—which opposed the new law—voters will undoubtedly be thinking about this law when they vote in next year’s Italian election.

Italy’s 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, or M5S for short) has been surging in Italian election polls and is already neck-and-neck with the ruling party: Italy’s very own Democratic Party (Partico Democratico).

M5S’s leader Beppe Grillo, like President Donald Trump, had already made a name for himself on television long before entering politics. A professional comedian, Grillo’s specialty was political satire. But M5S is no more a satire than Trump’s campaign was a reality show; M5S is now the most formidable populist opposition party in Europe.

Last December, M5S played a major role in opposing constitutional changes proposed by then-Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. They were voted down in a referendum by a 60 percent majority, resulting in Renzi’s resignation. Yet Renzi’s Democratic Party is still bold enough to lead the push for national vaccine mandates, despite what also happened in America.

Renzi’s political counterpart Barack Obama denied there were any reasons to not get vaccinated. Hillary Clinton made it clear in a tweet to her millions of followers that vaccination should not be questioned. California’s Democratic Party was also behind a state law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in June 2015 that stripped away religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination.

By contrast, America’s own populist candidate Donald Trump said on a debate stage in front of millions of viewers that he supported spacing out vaccines and that he believed this would have a huge impact on autism. His then-opponent, former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Ben Carson agreed with Trump about spacing vaccines out. Carson also later endorsed Trump during the primaries.

The voters who elected Trump and rejected Clinton knew where both candidates stood on vaccinations. Similarly, Italian voters will head to the ballots in next year’s election knowing that Italy’s populists stood up for their vaccine exemption rights while Italy’s Democrats stripped them away.

Jake Crosby is editor of the website Autism Investigated. Crosby has a masters in Public Health in epidemiology. In 2016, he worked as both a campaign field representative and as a volunteer to elect President Trump and other GOP candidates. He has also made freelance contributions to the Autism Media Channel and the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.

Originally published on The Epoch Times