Italy introduces new steps to slow measles epidemics in the country

The Italian government will formally impose restrictions on Tuesday in response to the rising number of cases of measles among the country’s children.

The Health Ministry said that in the first 10 days of 2018 there were 2,375 suspected measles cases, up from 826 cases over the same period in 2017. (According to Health Ministry data, about 10 percent of all cases last year were considered to be measles-like cases.) And though the Italian government has previously taken some limited measures in response to the increase in cases — its last policy changes included the increase of vaccinations for 7-year-olds and screening of kindergarten students for fever — this new approach will be the first widespread effort to limit the number of unvaccinated children.

See an interactive map of the total measles outbreaks in the U.S.

Among the new limits, the government will prohibit children from enrolling in kindergarten without the full vaccination coverage required by the country’s public school system. It will also limit visits to grandparents, like in countries where people who can not visit or visit as frequently often as other grandparents get vaccinated, to no more than once a year.

Many parents in Italy cite concerns about the long-term safety of vaccines as their reasons for opting out of vaccinating their children, and some suggest that the lack of vaccinations can lead to the increase in measles cases.

See an interactive map of the measles outbreaks in the U.S.

Nevertheless, while many European countries and even the U.S. still have high numbers of unimmunized children, Italy has adopted a more restrictive approach than many other European countries, although vaccination rates are not the highest in Europe — Sweden and Belgium have the highest coverage rates in Europe, according to research published in 2016. Italy has the second-lowest vaccination rates in Europe.

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