Italy responds to measles’ outbreaks with compulsory vaccination

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The Italian has ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enroll for state-run schools, reports BBC News.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni blamed a decrease in vaccinations in part on a “spread of anti-scientific theories”. Italy has recorded nearly three times as many measles cases so far this year than for all of 2016. If children are not vaccinated by the age of six, the school starting age, their parents will be fined.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni blamed a decrease in vaccinations in part on a “spread of anti-scientific theories”. Italy has recorded nearly three times as many measles cases so far this year than for all of 2016. If children are not vaccinated by the age of six, the school starting age, their parents will be fined.

The report says conspiracy theories about the health risks of certain vaccinations – largely based on one discredited paper – have circulated around the world, leading some parents to shun immunisation.

In Italy, the number of two-year-olds vaccinated against measles has dropped from more than 90% to below 80%. This is well short of the World Health Organisation’s recommended coverage of 95% or more.

“The lack of appropriate measures over the years and the spread of anti-scientific theories, especially in recent months, has brought about a reduction in protection,” Gentiloni is quoted in the report as saying.

The twelve conditions children must be immunised against are: polio; diphtheria; tetanus; hepatitis B; haemophilus influenzae B; meningitis B; meningitis C; measles; mumps; rubella; whooping cough; and chickenpox.

“We are sending a very strong message to the public,” said Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.

The report says in recent years a loose group of campaigners against vaccinations, dubbed the ‘anti-vax’ movement, has dissuaded people from opting in to immunisations by citing supposed risks. A long-discredited paper by Andrew Wakefield was behind much of the scare but the rumours around immunisation have continued to spread, leading to public health risks as not enough people are immune to such diseases.

The report says Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register after fraudulently claiming there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism and bowel disease in children. He made the claim based on the experiences of just 12 children, and no other study since has been able to replicate his results.

 

Parents refusing to vaccinate against illnesses is of growing concern since the reckless habit of not vaccinating in general could fuel a rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs‚ an expert says in a report in The Times. Annemarie Blackmore‚ Pharma Dynamics’ antimicrobials portfolio manager‚ said that vaccinating children is paramount in the ongoing fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

“Antibiotic resistance is when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth and is exacerbated by the unnecessary and incorrect use of antibiotics. Vaccines have the potential to decrease disease‚ which can in turn reduce the need for antibiotic use‚” Blackmore said.

Many parents remain particularly sceptical of the measles‚ mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine‚ following the UK study that linked the vaccine to autism. Blackmore said: “Contrary to these mistaken beliefs‚ vaccines are and will continue to play a pivotal role‚ and even more so in the next two to three decades‚ in combating illnesses and anti-microbial resistance alike.”

South Africa is still some way off in meeting its immunisation targets‚ which given the rise in not only diseases such as measles‚ but superbugs in recent years‚ it has now become a top priority.

The report says the total immunisation coverage in the country over the 2013/2014 period stood at 84.4% according to the district health barometer by the Health Systems Trust – an NPO with a focus on improving health systems in the country. The figure points to a drop in almost ten percentage points from the 94% coverage‚ which was recorded the year prior‚ indicating a significant decline in the overall administration of vaccines.

According to Blackmore there is a 30-year void in the discovery of new types of antibiotics‚ with no registered classes of antibiotics having been discovered since 1984‚ which reaffirms the importance of using what precious antibiotics we do have‚ responsibly. “Already AMR is estimated to kill more than 700‚000 people globally per year. If not addressed‚ 10m people are expected to die annually because of drug-resistance by 2050.

Everyone can and should play their part by vaccinating themselves and their loved ones against the diseases outlined in the World Health Organisation’s expanded immunisation programme‚” said Blackmore.

BBC News report
The Times report


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