By Barbara Loe Fisher
June 2017 saw the biggest public demonstrations against forced vaccination held in Europe since the Victorian era,1 as tens of thousands of Italians of all ages marched for vaccine freedom of choice in Rome, Florence, Milan, Bologna, Turin, Cagliani and other cities.2 They marched in opposition to a May 19 decree endorsed by the government’s Health Minister and President mandating that school children receive multiple doses of 12 vaccines or be prohibited from attending school with fines of up to $7500 euro (about $9,700) assessed to non-compliant parents.3 4 5
Wearing white t-shirts and chanting “Libera” (“Freedom”), they held up signs that said “Libera scelta” (“freedom of choice“) and “We are not anti-vax but freedom of choice” and “I decide if and how.” The marchers also pointed out that the government’s decree is a violation of Article 32 in the Italian Constitution, which states, “No one may be obliged to undergo any health treatment except under the provisions of the law. The law may not under any circumstances violate the limits imposed by respect for the human person.”6
According to the Financial Times, a doctor and epidemiologist member of the ruling political party introduced the bill in parliament because vaccination coverage for measles declined from 90 to 85 percent among children between 2011 and 2015.7 The Health Minister said that the new mandate was necessary to address measles outbreaks and falling vaccination rates that she described as “an emergency generated by fake news.” She said that Italy must meet a World Health Organization (WHO) objective that achieves a “level of immunization equal to 95% of the population.”8 9
The new mandate increased the numbers of vaccines required for school entry from four (polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B) to 12 (adding pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, HIB, meningococcal C and B).10
Grassroots pro-education, pro-choice organizations in Italy that helped organize the marches, such as COMILVA (Coordination of the Italian Movement for the Freedom of Vaccinations) founded in 1993, have adopted a pro-vaccine safety, pro-vaccine choice position similar to one in the U.S. created by parent founders of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) in 1982. They are questioning the safety of vaccine ingredients and one-size-fits-all vaccine policies that fail to acknowledge biological differences among children and place some children at greater risk for vaccine reactions, injury and death.
Several regional governments in northern Italy are challenging the expanded forced vaccination law in Italy’s Constitutional Court, calling for an end to “coercive measures.” One regional governor was quoted in the media: “Let’s be clear: We are not against vaccines, we are against making them obligatory….no to sanctions, yes to informed decisions by mums and dads!” Another regional official said, “Children’s health comes before the interest of some pharmaceutical company….freedom of choice works, threats and fines don’t.”11