AFTER an upsurge in measles cases, Italian authorities have recently taken the decision to exclude young children from school who do not have their required vaccinations. The new law applies to children under six and while elder children have to attend school under current rules, their parent’s face stiff fines if their kids are not immunised. The move follows a rise in the “anti-vax” movement globally, as parents refuse to vaccinate their children despite overwhelming scientific evidence disproving fears such as links to autism. Childhood vaccination had fallen to 80% in Italy, with 95% seen as being the threshold below which epidemics become a real risk. Children with weak immune systems, such as those recovering from leukaemia, had been advised to stay away from school due to the enhanced risk of infection.
While the Italian move is starting to have a positive effect the initial problem is being mirrored in much of the developed world. The issue goes all the way back to the long-discredited British GP Andrew Wakefield who first made the autism link and was then found to have falsified his entire findings and was struck off. However, Mr Wakefield moved to the US and is behind a resurgence of his claims over there, hiding behind “free speech” and looser healthcare regulations. As a result of the drop in immunisations, measles rates are steadily climbing in America and there are fears the matter could soon get out of hand. President Trump has regularly tweeted about the link between autism and vaccination, despite his own health department completely refuting this.