Tag Archives: Lorenzin Law

ITALY ELECTION: The Populists Decimate The Political Establishment

Read TIME’s recent piece “How Anti-Vaxxers Could Help Decide Italy’s Election” and the editor’s August 2017 article in The Epoch Times entitled “Italy’s New Mandatory Vaccine Law Will Fuel a Populist Backlash.” 

A populist-led coalition and a populist political party have collectively amassed 70% of the vote in Italy’s Sunday election. The populist Northern League (Lega Nord) now leads a coalition of right-wing parties which in turn now have the highest share of seats in the country’s parliament. The populist 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle/M5S) now controls more seats than any other party. Last year, both Lega Nord and M5S unanimously opposed a new law mandating 12 vaccinations for Italian schoolchildren but did not have enough seats to defeat it.

Now they do.

In contrast, the once-dominant Partito Democratico that overwhelmingly passed the new law failed to even gain a fifth of the vote. Its leader Matteo Renzi has just resigned in humiliation. He previously resigned as prime minister in 2016 over a failed constitutional referendum. Now in 2018, populist leaders Matteo Salvini of Lega Nord and Luigi Di Maio of M5S are vying to run Italy.

Regardless of who the next prime minister will be, opponents of the mandatory vaccination law (nicknamed the “Lorenzin Law” after Italy’s health minister Beatrice Lorenzin) now dominate the government. The prime minister must have the confidence of a majority of parliament. Yesterday’s election outcome just astronomically raised the likelihood that the Lorenzin Law will soon be discarded to the ash heap of history.

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.


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.