Italy bans unvaccinated children from attending school

A protestor speaks out against mandatory vaccination in Italy in July 2017. Italy's mandatory vaccination law came into effect in March 2019

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) study after a major measles outbreak in the country in 2017 found that almost 89 percent of cases were reported among unvaccinated people.

This stance follows months of debate over compulsory vaccination, both in Italy and across the world.

Children up to the age of six years will be excluded from nursery and kindergarten without proof of vaccination under the new rules.

But in a reversal of policy, the coalition fell into line with mainstream medical opinion and insisted that as of this week, children attending school must receive immunisations for a range of infectious diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

Children have been reportedly told to not turn up to school unless they can prove they have been vaccinated.

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Italian officials have said that the law is already having a positive effect, though it hasn't released any figures.

So far, it has been reported that in Bologna, authorities have sent suspension letters to parents over more than 300 children, and a total of 5,000 kids do not have up-to-date vaccination documents.

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. There have been 165 measles cases this January in the European Union and previous year there were 78 cases of vaccine-preventable infections, say reports.

Vaccines have been a flash point for recent elections in Italy. Italian media report that regional authorities are handling the situation in a number of different ways.

The government, which had initially opposed the Lorenzin law, reversed that position after what it called "a measles emergency", and criticism from health experts accusing the anti-vaccination movement of "sending Italy back to the Middle Ages".

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