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Pro-vaccine medics call for 'measles doll' to be withdrawn

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Pro-vaccine medics call for 'measles doll' to be withdrawn
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP
11:22 CEST+02:00
Pro-vaccine medics have called for the latest edition of the popular doll Cicciobello, which suffers from measles that can be cured with cream and plasters, to be withdrawn.

The toy, called Cicciobello Morbillino (Cicciobello Measles), was launched by manufacturer Giochi Preziosi, on Tuesday.

“From today you can have fun curing her red spots. You will find everything you need in the carry case. Are you ready?” the company wrote on Twitter.

After a measles outbreak which last year claimed four lives, doctors said the toy risked trivializing a serious disease.

“We’re now waiting for Cicciobello Lymphoma and Cicciobello Meningitis," said Roberto Burioni, a pro-vaccine doctor and professor at the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan.

In comments to the Italian news agency Ansa, Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Higher Health Institute, said that "linking an illness like measles with something entertaining is misleading".

"You run the risk of inducing people to worry more about the vaccine, which is safe, than the disease which is, on the other hand, not absolutely banal,” he added.

The launch of the toy comes amid pledges by Italy’s two populist parties – the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S) – to scrap a compulsory vaccination law should they enter government. Both parties made big gains in last month’s elections – M5S emerged as the biggest single party while the League had the strongest performance within a centre-right coalition. The vote produced a hung parliament, with talks now underway for a government to be formed.

The anti-vaccine stance has coincided with an increase in the number of cases of measles: there were almost 5,000 cases last year - six times as high as in 2016.

In 95 percent of the cases the patient had either not been vaccinated against the disease or had only received one of the recommended two doses.

The four people who died of measles included a 41-year-old and three children aged one, six, and nine. None of the victims had been vaccinated.

Among all of those affected by measles, the ages varied from one day to 84 years.

Italy's cabinet last year approved a law making vaccinations compulsory for children starting at state schools, with those against measles and meningitis among the newly obligatory vaccines. During the election campaign both M5S and the League proposed to scrap the decree.

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.

M5S in particular has been heavily criticized for its role in raising doubts over the efficacy of vaccinations. A law proposal put forward by the party in 2014 called for "better information and possible denial of administering vaccinations" and cited the debunked studies.

 

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