THE LUMINARY: “WITHOUT VACCINES WE RISK NEW EPIDEMICS”

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After months of controversy the government, with a decree-law, reintroduced the obligation of the vaccinations as a condicio sine qua non to access education. The obligation for the moment only affects children from 0 to 6 years, those attending nursery schools and kindergartens. Those who do not respect the rule will not be admitted in the schools. For the next ten years (five elementary, three medium and the first two years of high school) failure to vaccinate will trigger a simple heavy fine to the parents. This decision, is not accepted by a part of the scientific community, which considers immoral to barter the right to health of minors with an amount of money.

The decree has also increased from 4 to 12 the mandatory vaccines, adding to polio, tetanus, hepatitis B and diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, pox (all included in the so-called Mprv), pertussis, meningococcal B, the meningococcal C and Haemophilus Influenza B. The debate, despite the decisive intervention of the government, seems however destined to last a long time. For this reason, In Terris interviewed Professor Modesto Mendicini, paediatrician and neonatologist of international fame, already a professor at the Policlinico Umberto I in Rome, with 55 years of professional experience and the authority of who knows the matter in depth.

Professor What do you think about the anti-vaccination front?
“The public opinion movements think and act instinctively, not rationally, manipulating is very easy. A medical act always involves a risk. There is no clinical evidence that a vaccine causes serious damage, it is difficult to establish a cause-effect relationship “.

But does vaccination actually entail risks?
“No more than other medical acts, but when the benefit is greater than the risk then there are no doubts: it must be done. In the past, this question was not there, when vaccines were introduced in Italy and not only, it was a real revolution, let us not forget that smallpox and polio were killing many people”.

Is it right to introduce an obligation?
“In a certain sense yes, but it is not fair that the obligation is connected with schooling, the school does not have the right to ask if a child is vaccinated even if these are the riskiest promiscuous environments”.

Some of your colleagues say that the cases of autism have increased because of vaccinations…
“It is not so, Child Neuropsychiatry progressed, the diagnosis of autism falls in in the big mishmash of the disorder of altered communication. The disturbances are many, from minor diseases to the most severe, but vaccines are not involved at all”.

Did infectious diseases increase?
“Absolutely yes. Mainly the cases of measles and tuberculosis, not to mention the syphilis. Think of the vaccine against the papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease. It is an extraordinary scientific conquest; the papilloma causes lesions that over time can develop cancer of the uterus and now the vaccine is administered to girls for free at the age of twelve. Returning to other diseases it is obvious that a large part of the population is vaccinated but with the immigrants coming from other countries where few are vaccinated, the risk of diseases is real. In Bangladesh, the smallpox still kills. I would add that polio, tetanus and diphtheria are not cleared and it is possible, not desirable, that in a few years we find ourselves again with these epidemics”.

Shall we be alarmed by the meningitis?
“Meningitis always existed, there are many strains, some of them are more widespread. In my entire career, I have seen very few cases, alarmism make people lose the control of the situation, in any case for the most common strains I always suggest vaccination”.

What would you suggest to puzzled parents?
“My opinion is to vaccinate children, there may be reactions as in any other medical act, I repeat, but the percentage of the cost benefit is unquestionable it is a benefit”.

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