Italian health official makes accusation against populist party, which proposed anti-vaccination law in 2015
An Italian health official has blamed an alarming rise in measles cases on the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which has campaigned on an anti-vaccination platform and has repeated discredited links between vaccinations and autism.
According to the health ministry, more than 700 cases of the highly contagious disease have been registered so far in 2017, compared with 220 for the same period last year and 844 in the whole of 2016.
The surge in the number of cases follows a drop in the proportion of two-year-olds given vaccinations from 88% in 2013 to 86% in 2014 and 85.3% in 2015 well below the 95% threshold advised by the World Health Organisation.
In 2015, the M5S proposed a law against vaccinations because of the link between vaccinations and specific illnesses such as leukaemia, poisoning, inflammation, immunodepression, inheritable genetic mutations, cancer, autism and allergies.
Writing on his blog the same year, the partys leader, Beppe Grillo, said: Vaccines have played a fundamental role in eradicating terrible illnesses such as polio, diphtheria and hepatitis. However, they bring a risk associated with side-effects that are usually temporary and surmountable but in very rare cases, can be as severe as getting the same disease youre trying to be immune to.
The outbreak of measles this year has been mostly concentrated in the wealthy regions of Piedmont, Lazio, Tuscany and Lombardy. Some doctors in these areas have been actively encouraging parents not to give their child the injection. Turin in Piedmont and Rome in Lazio both elected M5S mayors last June.
Raniero Guerra, the director general for preventive health at the ministry of health, told the Guardian: People from the M5S say measles is normal, and that every three years we have a peak, so why is it dangerous? Well, I say its not normal to have peaks or outbreaks we are supposed to be a measles-free country.