What Happens When Politicians Embrace Anti-Vaxxers

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. IMAGE: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0

Italy is living through what happens when politicians embrace anti-vaxxers

In the middle of a measles outbreak, a new populist government spreads conspiracies

| Isabella Carapella, Huffpost – Italy’s Five Star movement, which was founded by a man who once called HIV a hoax, campaigned against mandatory vaccinations ahead of the country’s elections in March – and won.

Last month, party leaders pushed through a law that ended compulsory immunizations for children attending public school.

The new law has made Italy the darling of the global anti-vaxxer movement. (Story continues below … )

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But now the country is struggling to stop a measles outbreak that has already infected thousands of people, and Europe is recording its highest number of cases in a decade — an inevitable and foreseeable result of anti-vaccine policies and rhetoric, experts say.

“Europe now is a good example of what happens when coverage of vaccinations is in decline,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

The efforts of Five Star and its far-right coalition partner, the League, have particularly complicated the global campaign to combat measles, an extremely contagious virus that often spreads among children and can result in severe complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis.

The World Health Organization in 2012 set the goal for Europe to eliminate the disease by 2015. Instead, an estimated 41,000 people across the continent have been infected in the first six months of this year.

Even a slight dip in a population’s vaccination rate can have disastrous effects: Countries need at least a 95 percent coverage rate to be measles-free. So when fewer people get vaccinated, kids get sick.

“We’ve got this terrible self-inflicted wound where you’re reversing public health gains in Europe and the U.S.,” said Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine… Read more.

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