Parents had been set a July 10th deadline to provide schools with the relevant documentation, but it will now be possible for parents to simply submit their own confirmation that the child has been vaccinated, according to Giulia Grillo, Italy's Health Minister, who was speaking at a press conference on Thursday.
Grillo announced that she herself was pregnant with her first child during the same press conference, and said she would “obviously” ensure her own child received the required vaccinations. The reason for the relaxation in the rules was to “simplify rules” for parents, she explained.
Her predecessor, Beatrice Lorenzin, said in a statement: “Self-certification is not a bad thing, but there is the question of controls: who will guarantee that children at school are actually in a safe condition?”
Italy's National Health Institute (ISS), also said it was “important not to compromise the goal of everyone's good health”, particularly when it came to children who for medical reasons cannot have the vaccinations. Grillo stressed that families should not make false claims about their child's vaccinations, but contact the health ministry if they had “legitimate doubts”.
Both the League and Five Star Movement, which have governed together since June 1st, had promised to scrap the compulsory vaccination law introduced last year.
Under the decree, which sparked heated public debate when it took effect, children cannot enroll in a creche or kindergarten unless they have been vaccinated against measles as well as nine other diseases. All of these vaccinations are offered free of charge, and parents who failed to comply face fines of up to €500, unless there was a medical reason for not getting the vaccines.
Previously only four vaccines – not including measles – were mandatory, and Five Star Movement (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio, now Deputy Prime Minister, suggested reverting to just these four with the addition of a compulsory measles vaccine.
In 2017, there were four deaths from measles in Italy and almost 5,000 cases of the disease in total, while the national measles immunization rate of 87 percent is far below the 95 percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.
A growing anti-vaccine movement in the country was thought to be one of the causes in the recent drastic rise in measles cases, and the M5S 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.