June 2017 saw the biggest public demonstrations against forced vaccination held in Europe since the Victorian era,1 as tens of thousands of Italians of all ages marched for vaccine freedom of choice in Rome, Florence, Milan, Bologna, Turin, Cagliani and other cities.2 They marched in opposition to a May 19 decree endorsed by the government’s Health Minister and President mandating that school children receive multiple doses of 12 vaccines or be prohibited from attending school with fines of up to $7500 euro (about $9,700) assessed to non-compliant parents.3 4 5
Wearing white t-shirts and chanting “Libera” (“Freedom”), they held up signs that said “Libera scelta” (“freedom of choice“) and “We are not anti-vax but freedom of choice” and “I decide if and how.” The marchers also pointed out that the government’s decree is a violation of Article 32 in the Italian Constitution, which states, “No one may be obliged to undergo any health treatment except under the provisions of the law. The law may not under any circumstances violate the limits imposed by respect for the human person.”6
According to the Financial Times, a doctor and epidemiologist member of the ruling political party introduced the bill in parliament because vaccination coverage for measles declined from 90 to 85 percent among children between 2011 and 2015.7 The Health Minister said that the new mandate was necessary to address measles outbreaks and falling vaccination rates that she described as “an emergency generated by fake news.” She said that Italy must meet a World Health Organization (WHO) objective that achieves a “level of immunization equal to 95% of the population.”8 9
The new mandate increased the numbers of vaccines required for school entry from four (polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B) to 12 (adding pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, HIB, meningococcal C and B).10
Grassroots pro-education, pro-choice organizations in Italy that helped organize the marches, such as COMILVA (Coordination of the Italian Movement for the Freedom of Vaccinations) founded in 1993, have adopted a pro-vaccine safety, pro-vaccine choice position similar to one in the U.S. created by parent founders of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) in 1982. They are questioning the safety of vaccine ingredients and one-size-fits-all vaccine policies that fail to acknowledge biological differences among children and place some children at greater risk for vaccine reactions, injury and death.
Several regional governments in northern Italy are challenging the expanded forced vaccination law in Italy’s Constitutional Court, calling for an end to “coercive measures.” One regional governor was quoted in the media: “Let’s be clear: We are not against vaccines, we are against making them obligatory….no to sanctions, yes to informed decisions by mums and dads!” Another regional official said, “Children’s health comes before the interest of some pharmaceutical company….freedom of choice works, threats and fines don’t.”11
GlaxoSmithKline a Big Player in Italy
The United Kingdom’s multinational drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a big player in Italy with strong ties to medical trade and government. In 2014, GSK acquired the global vaccine business of Novartis (excluding influenza vaccines), which included meningococcal B vaccine created by Italian vaccine developer Lino Rappuoli working with Novartis.2 13
In 2015, the Italian government launched a 700 million euro (about $785 million) National Vaccination Plan that began to be implemented in April 2016, the same month that GSK announced a one billion euro investment in Italy over four years, with the majority of the investment going to vaccine research and manufacturing and production plants in Italy.14 15 GSK manufactures and globally markets eight of the 12 vaccines now mandated by the Italian government, including four of the newly required vaccines (HIB, meningococcal B and C, pertussis).
In a 2016 interview in Politico, Italy’s director general of health prevention at the Health Ministry talked about how public health officials, doctors and school officials will implement the government’s National Vaccination Plan to drive up vaccination rates among children. “We have strong alliance with the industry and we also have a pact with schools who will have to verify if their students are vaccinated. We also reached an agreement with the order of physicians, who will be paying close attention to those doctors that discourage parents from vaccinating their kids,” he said. He added that it is “necessary to rebalance the responsibility from parents to state authorities.”16
Sanctioning Medical Doctors for Supporting Vaccine Choice
To ensure that all doctors get in line with the National Vaccination Plan, doctors in Italy who dissent from restrictive vaccine policies and advocate for voluntary vaccination are being targeted for de-licensing so that they cannot continue to work as doctors. In April 2017, a well-credentialed cardiologist who, in 2014 authored the book Pediatric Vaccinations: A Review of the Scientific Evidence, was sanctioned by the local medical licensing board for advocating a more holistic approach to maintaining health and for his support of informed consent to vaccination.17 18
Media Serving the Global Vaccination Agenda
The global mass vaccination infrastructure, which has been built over the past two decades by the pharmaceutical industry working with governments, the World Health Organization, medical trade and corporate philanthropist Bill Gates, is a very lucrative one.19 20 21 22 23 Market growth depends upon forced use of vaccines by populations in all countries, especially in the U.S. and developed nations in the European Union, which pay premium prices for vaccines.24 25
Major news outlets in the U.S. and Europe are taking an active role in assisting governments pursuing the global forced vaccination agenda, including getting involved in the political business of other countries. In March 2017 in the Scientific American, vaccine developer Peter Hotez sang the praises of philanthrocapitalist Bill Gates and the global vaccination agenda while pointing to “vaccine hesitancy” worldwide that he blamed on the U.S. “anti-vaccine” movement. Dr. Hotez called on the U.S. government to “snuff out” the anti-vaccine movement and said the largest nations in the world (G20) must “become more vocal and proactive, while addressing and elevating discussions about vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine movements in international forums.”26
Two weeks before the Italian government expanded vaccine mandates and financial punishment for non-compliance, The New York Times editorial board wrote: “One of the great tragedies of these post-truth times is that the lies, conspiracy theories and illusions spread by social media and populist politicians can be downright dangerous.” Blaming outbreaks of measles in Italy on “populist” politicians discussing the “utterly misguided and discredited claims about [vaccine’ dangers,” the newspaper linked populism and skepticism about climate change with skepticism about vaccination.27
A few weeks earlier, the Financial Times reported that “moves to widen vaccination coverage” in Italy was meeting strong political opposition and, like The New York Times, placed blame on a “populist party” doing well in opinion polls “arguing that parents should have the freedom to choose” which vaccines their children will get.28 On June 7 after the first public protests in Italy took place, an OpEd published by a large European Union news outlet was headlined “Italy’s mandatory vaccine law should be adopted worldwide.”
Paul Offit Spreads False News About Germany
On June 18, 2017 (Father’s Day), one of America’s most vocal forced vaccination proponents–Merck vaccine developer Paul Offit, MD–inserted himself into the discussion about what the E.U. should do with parents defending the right to make voluntary choices about vaccination for their children. In an OpEd in the Daily Beast entitled “When Parents Force the Government’s Hand on Vaccines, “ Dr. Offit ignored the massive public protests against use of coercion and punishment in Italy. Instead, he congratulated German health officials on “choosing to fine parents as much as 2,500 euros (about $2800) for failing to vaccinate their children” and “requiring kindergartens to report parents whose children are not vaccinated.”29
Either Dr. Offit didn’t bother to fact check or deliberately spread false news in the U.S. about Germany because, actually, parents of kindergartners will be fined if they refuse to provide school officials with proof they have attended a doctor’s consultations on child vaccinations.30 According to Deutsche Welle, Germany does not mandate vaccines for children. Rather, since 2015, parents must present proof to childcare centers that they have been counseled by a doctor about vaccination, but the center is not allowed to refuse a child a place if they have not done so, as parents have a legal right to one. It is up to the childcare centers to decide whether to report parents without proof of a consultation to health authorities, which could result in a fine.31
Vaccine Hesitant Doctors in France and other EU Nations
Vaccine hesitancy is not just growing among parents in Europe, it is also growing among health care providers who give vaccines. In 2015, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published a report on vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers and their patients in Europe. Among their findings, researchers found that healthcare workers had “significant mistrust of pharmaceutical companies who not only had financial interests but also did not communicate sufficient information about side effects and tried to exert pressure on doctors.” They concluded that, “Healthcare workers had concerns related to the risks of vaccination and expressed lack of trust in health authorities.”32
Vaccines Voluntary in Many Western European Countries
Since World War II, western European countries have been very careful about laws that coerce and punish people. Most vaccines are voluntary in all but a few western European countries and there has been a generally high vaccination rate among children with government recommended vaccines, such as DPT, MMR and polio without mandates.33 34
However, according to several reports in major E.U. news outlets, distrust of vaccination has risen in France from 10 percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2010 and the safety of measles, hepatitis B and HPV vaccines, especially, has been called into question.35 36 France mandates diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccines. On June 15, 2017, it was reported that the new Minister of Health in France wants to follow Italy’s lead and make eight more vaccines mandatory for all children, including pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, HIB, pneumococcal and meningococcal C.37
Mandatory Vaccination: Violation of Human Rights
In a 2015 article in The Ecologist, mother and primary school teacher Anna Watson, who is U.K. representative and co-Secretary of the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance (EFVV), quoted from the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: “Free and informed consent must be respected in the fields of medicine and biology.” She stated that, “to mandate vaccinations is to deny this fundamental freedom….Informed choice is vital in a democracy. Mandating vaccines actually goes against at least a dozen European ethical documents, including the Nuremberg Code.”38
US Parents Stand in Solidarity with Parents in the European Union
When medical doctors working for government, industry and medical trade cannot persuade parents to take risks with vaccines voluntarily, they work with politicians to pass laws requiring parents to vaccinate their children. The U.S. has led the way in that regard since 1905, when the utilitarian U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts set the stage for forced vaccination and forced sterilization in America.39 It started with requiring one vaccine, smallpox, and today U.S. parents are required by state governments to give their children multiple doses of the 16 vaccines the federal government recommends or be punished with denial of childcare and education.
Parents leading the 35-year old vaccine safety and informed consent movement in America stand in solidarity with the parents in Italy, France, Germany, U.K. and many other countries in Europe, who are leading a defense for the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking, including vaccine risk taking. Hold your elected officials accountable for their actions at the polls. Have faith, stay strong and do not back down. You inspire us to do the same.
1 Earl E. The Victorian Anti-Vaccination Movement. The Atlantic July 15, 2017.
2 Repubblica. ‘Italia del “free vax” in piazza: da Cagliari a Torino si manifesta per chiedere liberta di scelta. June 3, 2017. PHOTOS and VIDEO.
3 The Local (Italy). Italy makes vaccines compulsory for school starters. May 12, 2017.
4 Il Globo. Italy introduces compulsory vaccinations for children. Il Globo June 8, 2017.
5 Giubilini A. Opinion: ‘Italy’s mandatory vaccine law should be adopted worldwide.’ The Local (Italy) June 7, 2017.
6 Senato della Repubblica. Constitution of the Italian Republic. Article 32 (page 11). Dec. 27, 1947.
7 Roberts H. Amid vaccine debate, Italy faces return of eradicable diseases. Financial Times Apr. 18, 2017.
8 The Local (Italy). Italy makes vaccines compulsory for school starters. May 12, 2017.
9 Lunghini R. Italy requires vaccination for school enrolment. West-info.eu June 8, 2017.
11 The Local (Italy). Italy’s northern regions are challenging a mandatory vaccination law. June 14, 2017.
12 GlaxoSmithKline. GSK announces major 3-part transaction with Novartis to drive sustainable sales growth, improve long term earnings and deliver increasing returns to shareholders. GSK Press Release Apr. 22, 2014.
13 Barry F. Novartis Meningitis vaccine scoops innovation prize. BioPharma Oct. 3, 2014.
14 Paravicini G. Italy fights vaccines fear. Politico (EU) Apr. 21, 2016.
15 Turno R. Vaccines and drugs, Glaxo bets 1 billion on Italy. Healthcare24 (Sanita24) Apr. 13, 2016. (Google Translate)
16 Paravicini G. Italy fights vaccines fear. Politico (EU) Apr. 21, 2016.
17 www.Robertogava.it (Use Google Translate)
18 AsSIS (Association of Studies and Health Information). Expression of solidarity and esteem to Dr. Roberto Gava. Mar. 22, 2017. (Use Google Translate).
19 Gates Foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates Pledge $10 Billion in Call for Decade of Vaccines. Press Release January 2010.
20 CDC. Who We Are: CDC and Our Global Immunization Partners. Dec. 14, 2011.
21 NIH. Bill Gates celebrates research collaborations with NIH. Global Health Matters Newsletter 2014; 13(1).
22 World Health Organization. Global Vaccine Action Plan: Immunization Coverage. WHO March 2017.
23 LaVigne P. Global Vaccine Market Surging to More than 70 Billion by 2024. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 10, 2016.
24 Boseley S. Bill Gates dismisses criticism of high prices for vaccines. The Guardian Jan. 27, 2015.
25 Sarmadi D. Merkel’s ‘vaccine summit’ raises $7.5 billion. Euractiv.de Jan. 28, 2015.
26 Hotez P. Will an American-led anti-vaccine movement subvert global health? Scientific American Mar. 3, 2017.
27 Editorial Board. Populism, Politics and Measles. The New York Times May 2, 2017.
28 Roberts H. Amid vaccine debate, Italy faces return of eradicable diseases. Financial Times Apr. 18, 2017.
29 Offit P. When Parents Force the Government’s Hand on Vaccines. The Daily Beast June 18, 2017.
30 Associated Press. German Kindergartens to Name Parents Who Skip Vaccine Advice. The New York Times May 26, 2017.
31 Deutsche Welle. Germany moves to improve child vaccination rate. May 25, 2017.
32 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers and their patients in Europe: A qualitative study. October 2015.
33 Haverkate M., D’Ancona F, Giambi C et al. Mandatory and Recommended Vaccination in the EU.