Politician who opposes mandatory chickenpox vaccinations contracts chickenpox

Senior member of ruling League party branded previous government ‘Stalinist’ over mandatory chickenpox immunisation programme - but insists he is in favour of vaccines did have his children vaccinated

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 19 March 2019 15:34
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Politician who opposes mandatory chickenpox vaccinations contracts chickenpox

A senior member of Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party who is an outspoken critic of Italy’s mandatory vaccination rules has been treated in hospital after contracting chickenpox.

Massimiliano Fedriga, president of the northeastern Fruili-Venezia Giulia region, announced he spent four days under observation in a medical facility after being diagnosed with the virus last week.

“I'm fine, I'm at home in convalescence and I thank everyone,” he wrote on social media following his discharge.

Mr Fedriga has been a vocal opponent of Italy’s decision to introduce mandatory childhood vaccinations against 12 diseases, including chickenpox.

The legislation, introduced following a measles outbreak in 2017, prevents unvaccinated children from attending nursery or pre-school and imposes heavy fines on parents who fail to immunise school-age children.

During his time serving as the League’s head of the chamber of deputies in the Italian parliament, Mr Fedriga had argued parents should not be “coerced” into vaccinating their children.

In one interview, he described the Democratic Party, the largest member of the then-ruling coalition government, as “Stalinist” for attempting to “impose” the policy on the public.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Fedriga insisted he was not a supporter of the “anti-vax” movement, members of which avoid immunising their children – often due to unsubstantiated safety fears.

“I'm reading a series of celebratory comments on Twitter because I’ve been hospitalised,” he said.

“I have always said that I am in favour of vaccines, but to achieve the result it is necessary to have an alliance with families not imposition.

“They even said I would get chicken pox from my children, not knowing that my children are vaccinated, as I have stated in interviews.”

Vaccinations have in recent years become a contentious issue in Italian politics.

The League’s coalition partners in government, the Five Star Movement, which also opposes compulsory immunisation, has been accused by opponents of enabling anti-vaxxers.

Roberto Burioni, a prominent Italian doctor who runs the website MedicalFacts, said the incident served as a warning to adults to ensure they were vaccinated.

“Dear President, first of all let me wish you a speedy recovery,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m glad you vaccinated your children.

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“[Mr Fedriga], like many adults, did not get vaccinated... if he had been vaccinated as an adult he would be in perfect health.

“If he had infected a pregnant woman we would be facing a malformed child or an abortion.

“The only way we have to avoid such tragedies is to vaccinate us all to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which could have hit a much more vulnerable person.”

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