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HEALTH

Italian schools and vaccination: Here’s what you need to know

If your child is starting school in Italy this month, you'll need to be up-to-date on the vaccination rules.

Italian schools and vaccination: Here's what you need to know
Photo: Schneyder Mendoza/AFP

There's been plenty of confusion over the rules on compulsory vaccines for children in Italy over the past year or so.

After the previous populist government's mind-boggling series of u-turns on the issue, many parents were left unsure of the requirements for children starting school. And as a result, many children aged under six will not be joining heir classmates for the new school year.

Italian news this week is full of reports of schools refusing to admit thousands of children who haven't received their mandatory jabs before attending school, including for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Schools in the Veneto region, for example, are refusing to admit some 7,000 unvaccinated children under the age of six, regional health authorities said yesterday. A further 2,000 have reportedly been excluded in Varese, and 3,000 in Lombardy.

So what are the rules?

The so-called Lorenzin law, making vaccinations compulsory, was first introduced in 2013.

The rules cover all children aged 0-16 who are resident in Italy.

The vaccinations are compulsory for school children who are enrolling for the first time as well as returning students.

Parents or legal guardians of both Italian and foreign residents under 16 have to follow the new guidelines or risk being fined. Children under six can also now be turned away by schools under legislation passed in 2018, intended to tackle plummeting vaccination rates.

Which vaccinations are required?

– polio

– hepatitis B

– tetanus

– measles

– Haemophilus influenzae Type B

– diphtheria

– mumps

– rubella

– pertussis

– varicella (only for children born in 2017 or later)

Plus the non-compulsory but recommended vaccines:

– anti-meningococcal B*

– anti-meningococcal C* 

– pneumococcal vaccines*

– rotavirus*

* The list of extra vaccines is updated by the Ministry of Health every three years. See the latest information on the Ministry of Health website.

Why all the confusion?

While some parents are so-called anti-vaxxers who object to the immunisations, many others claim they were given misleading or contradictory information by health or education professionals.

Italy is one country where long-discredited claims of a link between the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism had a significant impact on public perceptions of the safety of the jab, and rumours continue to circulate.

After coming to power in May 2018, Italy's previous populist coalition government threatened to overturn Italy's existing vaccination laws, saying that requiring schoolchildren to be vaccinated against common diseases was “coercive.”

READ ALSO:

It protested against Italy's so-called Lorenzin law, under which children must receive a range of mandatory immunisations before attending school. 

The government later backed down over the issue amid a surge in measles cases in Italy, and the law was reintroduced in March 2019 – but many parents were left confused.

How do I make sure my child has the right vaccinations?

The mandatory vaccines are free. Visit the Ministry of Health's vaccine page for more information and to request an appointment online.

There is a national vaccination calendar which is linked to birth dates.

Parents who are new to the system should register with their nearest Agenzia Sanitaria Locale (ASL – local health agency) to get a login and password.

If parents can't get the required vaccinations done on time, they should request an appointment at their nearest ASL and present the subsequent paperwork to their child's school.

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EDUCATION

Back to school in Italy: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

With Italy’s schools reopening in September, parents are beginning the annual rush to stock up on essential supplies. New figures reveal families will have to shell out more this year.

Back to school in Italy: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

As the last families return to their homes at the tail-end of the so-called grande rientro, Italian pupils are preparing to file back into the classroom for the start of the 2022/2023 school year. 

For those who aren’t too familiar with the Italian education system, all public schools are managed by regional authorities, meaning return dates generally vary by region.

READ ALSO: Explained: What are Italy’s Covid rules for schools in September?

For instance, this time around, back-to-school dates will range from September 5th to September 19th, with children from Trentino-Alto Adige being the first back in front of the blackboard. (See all the dates here).

Regardless of the dates pupils are expected back at their desks, the purchase of school supplies and textbooks is going to deal many Italian families a harder economic blow this year.

According to estimates from Italian consumer association Codacons, the prices of regular school supplies (backpacks, notebooks, pencil cases, stationery, etc.) have increased by as much as seven percent compared to last year. 

Prices, Codacons explains, have been mainly driven up by “greater energy costs for manufacturers” and “higher transportation fees” associated with the European fuel crisis. 

Students outside the Italo Calvino Institute in Turin, Italy.

Backpacks are the most expensive item in the back-to-school shopping list, with some branded articles going for as much as 200 euros. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

So how much should Italian families prepare to shell out?

According to Codacons, expenses for school supplies alone might add up to a whopping 588 euros per student

As usual, the most expensive item on the back-to-school list is the backpack, with some brand-name articles currently going for as much as 200 euros.

READ ALSO: Why Italians have a hard time learning English – and how things could improve

Significant expenses are also required for pencil cases or pouches (branded items may go for as much as 60 euros) and school diaries (around 30 euros for the most sought-after brands). 

On top of the above-mentioned school supplies (corredo scolastico in Italian), families will also have to pay for textbooks. 

While elementary school textbooks are supplied free of charge across the entire country, costs for middle school (scuola media) or high school (scuola superiore) textbooks generally fall between 300 and 600 euros, with prices largely varying according to the year and school children happen to be in. 

All in all then, Codacons estimates that the purchase of school supplies, textbooks and technical items (set triangles, compasses, goniometers, etc.) might set Italian families back as much as 1,300 euros per student this time around. 

However, as the prospect of this year’s back-to-school stangata (financial blow) gives rise to some much-justified concern among parents, Codacons and other consumer groups such as Altroconsumo and Tuttoscuola have already provided families with some useful advice on how to save up on both supplies and textbooks.

How to save money on school supplies

  • Avoid branded items. Children are easily influenced by TV and/or online ads and might push to get the most popular and fashionable articles on the market. However, off-brand items generally have the same features and durability as their more well-known counterparts and might go for 40 percent less.
  • Buy from a local supermarket rather than a stationery shop. At this time of the year, many supermarket chains offer very favourable deals on school kits, with prices being sometimes 30 percent lower than in specialist shops.
  • Don’t buy everything at once. Any item that is not immediately necessary can be bought at a later stage.
  • Wait for teachers’ guidelines, especially when it comes to buying material for art or geometry classes. Knowing exactly what items are required will save you from spending money on wrong or unnecessary articles.

A student completing a written test.

Italian consumer groups have advised families to avoid branded items when it comes to purchasing school supplies. Photo by Olivier CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

How to save money on textbooks

  • Buy second-hand textbooks. Purchasing libri usati might allow you to save up to 50 percent on school books. However, it’s usually best to check the state of the items – especially their exercise pages – prior to buying. Also, keep in mind that past editions might no longer be accepted.
  • Loan textbooks directly from the school. Not all institutes do this but some allow for various forms of comodato d’uso whereby families can loan textbooks for the entire length of the school year and then return them when classes end in June.
  • Look out for financial incentives. All schools set aside a budget to help low-income families with the purchase of textbooks. Incentives usually come in the forms of vouchers partly covering the price of the required items. Vouchers are allocated on the basis of a household’s economic situation, which in Italy is calculated as ISEE (Equivalent Financial Position Indicator or Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente).
  • Shop online or in supermarkets. Some supermarkets and online marketplaces sell textbooks at favourable prices, with discounts usually ranging between 10 and 20 percent.
  • Buy digital textbooks. Again, not all schools allow this but in some institutes families have the option to buy the required set of textbooks in digital form. Students can then access the books via a pc, tablet or e-reader.
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