Unvaccinated children in Italy banned from preschool under new law

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

Unvaccinated children are now banned from attending preschool in Italy, as a new law came into effect this week.

The law, passed in 2017 by a previous government, requires children to be vaccinated against 10 diseases in order to attend daycare and nursery school. Without the shots, they must stay home.

Older children can attend school without being fully vaccinated, but parents face fines of 100 to 500 euros (C$151-754), and local health authorities will then schedule vaccinations for the children to make sure they get caught up.

The required vaccinations are polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, chicken pox and Haemophilus influenzae type B.

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Children who are unable to get vaccinated due to medical reasons are exempt from the requirement.

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The deadline for parents to provide proof of vaccination was on Monday, according to news reports.

WATCH (From August 2018): More than 41,000 measles cases were reported in Europe during the first half of 2018, already dwarfing 2017’s total

Click to play video: '37 dead as measles cases spike in Europe'
37 dead as measles cases spike in Europe

The goal of the law, according to a government website, is to fight the gradual decline in Italy’s vaccination rates. A recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that Italy reported 165 cases of measles in January 2019, one of the highest numbers in Europe.

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Italy’s current government, which includes the Five Star Movement, had previously questioned the safety of some vaccines and denounced efforts to make them mandatory. It threatened to overturn the mandatory vaccination law passed by the previous government but ended up scrapping its plans in the face of criticism as the country experienced a measles outbreak last summer.

New data from Italy’s health ministry suggests that the laws are making a difference, with 94 per cent of children having at least one dose of the measles vaccine in June 2018, up two per cent in just six months as parents may have vaccinated their children in anticipation of the new requirements.

In British Columbia, which is currently experiencing a small measles outbreak, parents started a petition calling for mandatory vaccinations to attend school. However, the B.C. government has said that it is only planning to require mandatory reporting of vaccination status in the upcoming school year.

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