Sputnik has discussed this with Professor Pier Luigi Lopalco from the University of Pisa, Italy.
Sputnik: So what is your take of the initiative of the upper house of parliament to amend the law on vaccinations that was passed last year?
In Italy, parents now don't understand why the government has made some vaccines mandatory and now the same government is changing their idea. It is not a political matter, this is a health issue.
Sputnik: It would almost seem like a political matter if the parliament is now wanting to backstep on its decision of just a year ago and can you tell us about the social pressure or the political pressure from members of Italian society?
Pier Luigi Lopalco: First of all, this is not scientifically substantiated at all. There is no link between vaccines and autism. In Italy, there is a movement that is making some propaganda on this matter, but they represent a very, very tiny minority of society. We've made some surveys to understand what the feeling is in society about vaccines and these opponents to vaccination are a tiny minority.
I'm talking about 1-2% of the parents that are ideologically against vaccination. This very tiny minority is very vocal and it is very active especially using social media. And social media now in Italy has a lot of penetration, has a very high penetration among society, so through the social media you can change the feelings and atmosphere and emotions of parents.
Sputnik: So what's the decision that was made last year, was that basically upheld by the majority of people?
Pier Luigi Lopalco: Yes, absolutely. I'm not saying that mandatory vaccination is good; I'm not saying that it is the only way to improve vaccination coverage, but for sure, I can tell you that this law last year produced an increase of vaccination coverage for measles, for example, of about 5%. These were often children from families that were just delaying the vaccinations. They were confused and thanks to the law brought their children to the vaccination office.
Sputnik: There are 10 diseases that you need to vaccinate against in order to go to school, what are those 10 diseases?
Pier Luigi Lopalco: Ten diseases, but just two vaccines because I'm talking about six diseases that can be prevented with just one shot. It prevents tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, influenza infection, hepatitis B, and there are also four diseases that can prevented with one single shot: measles, mumps, rubella and varicella that now can be offered with the Priorix-tetra (MMRV) vaccine.
Sputnik: Going back to social media, when did this movement really start against vaccines, and where do you think it came from?
Sputnik: The law was passed during an outbreak of measles, and I understand that there was 800 cases more than the previous year…
Pier Luigi Lopalco: Measles is still an endemic disease in Italy. This means that this virus is somehow freely circulating among the population and this is because of low vaccination coverage. Measles is a disease that is under national target so Italy, as well as other European countries, should eliminate the local circulation of the virus.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.