Italy makes 12 vaccines mandatory for school-age children

Vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and meningitis, which were previously only recommended, will now become mandatory, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

Vaccinations covering 12 common diseases will be required to register children for state childcare and elementary school up to the age of six.

'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 told a news conference in Rome.

In addition to four already compulsory vaccinations, for polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B and whooping cough, the new law now also covers vaccination against measles and meningitis, diseases that have recently seen a dramatic spike in Italy, prompting the U.S. to issue a travel warning for Italy.

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Earlier this week, Italy's National Health Institute reported 2,395 cases of measles between January 1 and May 14, against 390 cases registered in the first four months of 2016.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said children will not be accepted into nursery or pre-schools without proof of vaccinations, while parents of school-age children will face hefty fines for noncompliance.

The institute has recorded some 2,395 measles cases so far this year compared with some 840 in all of 2016 and 250 in 2015.

Anti-vaccination groups accused the government and pro-vaccine figures of pushing vaccinations for reasons not based on safety, but to boost pharmaceutical firms' profits and other economic interests.

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The government has vowed to end a climate of vaccine skepticism in Italy.

Paola Ferrara, 5-Star's leader in city hall, said the party had abstained because of the pending vote in parliament, and considered vaccinations "essential".

"5-Star is riding the wave of disinformation, nourishing fear and favoring a position that is anti-science and unsafe for the whole community", said Federico Gelli, a deputy from the ruling Democratic Party.

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