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Italian parents investigated after unvaccinated child catches tetanus

Prosecutors in Turin are considering charging a couple with injury by negligence after they failed to vaccinate their daughter against tetanus and she went on to contract the infection.

Italian parents investigated after unvaccinated child catches tetanus
An anti-tetanus vaccine. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The girl, seven, was rushed to the Regina Margherita Paediatric Hospital last October suffering from convulsions and was diagnosed with tetanus – a rare disease in Italy, where it has been compulsory to vaccinate children against it for the past 50 years.

It emerged that neither she nor her ten-month-old brother had received shots for tetanus or any other of the 12 diseases that Italy requires all school-age children to be vaccinated against.

While her parents said they were not part of Italy’s growing “anti-vax” movement, they said they were worried about potential side effects of vaccinations, according to La Repubblica.

Turin prosecutors are now weighing whether to open a case against them for negligent injury. They will first seek to establish whether the girl could have contracted tetanus if she had received the vaccination and whether it has permanently damaged her health, Il Secolo XIX said.

The girl was discharged after three weeks in hospital; both she and her brother have since been vaccinated.

Vaccines have been a hot topic in Italy since the government last year upped the number of mandatory vaccinations from four to 12 and made them a prerequisite for any children enrolling at state schools.

While public health experts praised the law, anti-vaccine activists vehemently oppose it. Two of Italy’s largest populist parties, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, made scrapping the legislation one of their promises to voters ahead of the general election on March 4th.

Italy was one of the countries where discredited claims of a link between the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination and autism had a significant impact on public perceptions of the safety of the jab. The “anti-vax” movement is thought to be one of the causes of a drastic increase in measles cases, which rose almost sixfold across Italy in 2017. 

HEALTH

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020

Coronavirus cut average life expectancy in Italy by 1.2 years in 2020, and by more than four years in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, official statistics showed on Monday.

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020
A cemetery in Bergamo, one of the parts of Italy which has suffered the highest death toll during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Life expectancy at birth last year stood at 82 years, compared to 83.2 years in 2019, the Istat national statistics office said in a new release.

“In 2020, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting sharp increase in mortality abruptly interrupted the growth in life expectancy at birth that had characterised the trend until 2019,” it said in a statement.

For many years Italy has boasted one of the longest life expectancies in Europe. But with the spread of the coronavirus, its ageing population was especially vulnerable to falling sick.

Italy has recorded close to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in total, which have mainly been among the elderly.

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The drop in life expectancy was even steeper in some regions such as the northern provinces of Bergamo and Cremona, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.

Men lost on average 4.3 and 4.5 years while women lost 3.2 years and 2.9 years in these areas.

More than 129,500 people with coronavirus have died in Italy, the majority in the northern regions where 36 percent of the population lives.

According to Istat, the pandemic has wiped out many of the gains made year-on-year since 2010, when Italy’s average life expectancy was 81.7.

Italy was the first European country to face a major outbreak of Covid-19 and for a time the region of Lombardy, the nation’s economic heart, became the epicentre of the global pandemic.

Quality of life has also been impacted in Italy, particulary due to the economic repercussions of the crisis.

The government has since rolled out a vaccination programme that, as of Monday evening, had almost 72 percent of the population over 12 fully immunised.

Italy has set a target of vaccinating at least 80 percent of the population by the end of September.

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