ANP has staunchly come out against an amendment passed by Italy’s Senate earlier this week postponing the obligation for parents to present a certificate proving their children have been vaccinated before they can attend public nursery schools.
The amendment still needs a vote in the lower house of parliament, expected after the government recess, before becoming law.
If passed, the law would delay the mandatory measure introduced by the previous left-wing government until the 2019-2020 school year. Before then, the coalition government, which is made up of the vaccine-sceptic Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, plans to introduce legislation that would give parents freedom of choice.
But ANP insists that when nurseries reopen in September, the current law must remain in force.
“If an ASL certificate is not presented then we cannot allow children to attend nurseries and kindergartens,” ANP said.
“We don’t want to raise walls and we hope we don’t reach that point, but as managers [of the school system] we are obliged to respect the laws in force.”
In early July the health ministry said parents no longer needed to provide documentation proving their children had been vaccinated and could instead ‘self-certify’.
"Self-certification needs to be verified,” ANP added.
The current law, which sparked heated public debate when it took effect, stipulates that 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 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.