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.

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5 Thoughts on “TIME: How Anti-Vaxxers Could Help Decide Italy’s Election

  1. Hans Litten on February 28, 2018 at 6:19 pm said:

    Please make it true about Italy Jake.
    And if we don’t get you pro-vaccine scoundrels (aka eugenicists) this time – we will next time !

    So why didn’t Cunningham get promoted is the question I am asking ?
    https://nypost.com/2018/02/28/missing-cdc-scientist-was-upset-over-promotion-snub-cops/

    Is it because he said something about the fake-flu vaccine ?
    https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/theory-flu-shot-dangerous-growing-doctors-say-thats-outrageous-214024583.html

    • The Cunningham story all depends on the reliability of blogger Baxter Dmitry, but the vaccine people are also not above disinformation to throw everyone off.

      As for Italy, we’ll find out Sunday. *fingers crossed!*

  2. Hans Litten on March 1, 2018 at 3:47 pm said:

    More mass Gardasil hysteria I suppose ? in the Philippines :

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/972251/dengvaxia-vaccine-pnp-police-cops-ill

    61 cops fall ill after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia
    By: Jhoanna Ballaran – INQUIRER.net / 04:16 PM March 01, 2018

    Days after the reported death of a utility worker vaccinated with Dengvaxia, the Philippine National Police General Hospital (PNP-GH) said 61 policemen fell ill after being administered with the now-controversial vaccine.

    PNP-GH chief Senior Supt. Reimound Sales said that as of March 1, 61 policemen had sought treatment in the hospital due to different symptoms like body pain, cough, colds, and fever.

  3. Pingback: ITALY ELECTION: The Populists Decimate The Political Establishment - Autism Investigated

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