Italian anti-vax politician hospitalised with chickenpox

Alicia Farmer
March 22, 2019

Massimiliano Fedriga, governor of Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, met with a torrent of ridicule when he revealed that he'd been hospitalized with chickenpox last week.

He has even described it as "Stalinist", arguing that while he personally vaccinates his own children, other parents shouldn't be "coerced" into doing the same.

His apparent bugbear was the mandatory nature of vaccinations. Parents of unvaccinated children aged seven to 16 can also be fined.

"I'm fine, I'm at home in convalescence, and I thank everyone", the regional secretary of Italy's far-right League party reportedly announced.

After months of fierce debate, the country had just implemented the so-called Lorenzin law, which requires all school children to be immunised against a dozen preventable diseases, one of which is chickenpox.

"Lorenzin law" was first proposed in 2017 by Italy's then Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin of the Popular Alternative party, who served in Italy's then ruling coalition with the Democratic Party.

Observers were quick to point out the irony of the situation.

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However, upon his hospitalization, Fedriga wrote on Facebook that he does not oppose vaccination.

And in response to the online backlash, Fedriga hit back, saying: "I have always said that I am in favour of vaccines and to achieve the result is necessary to form an alliance with families, not impose (it on them)".

Burioni, who specialises in disproving and countering fake medical news, warned his readers not to repeat Fedriga's mistakes. Both parties in the ruling coalition - La Liga and Five Star - initially opposed the implementation of the law before forming the new government past year but have since backtracked, allowing it to take effect earlier this month.

Prominent microbiologist Roberto Burioni wrote on his Twitter that he wished the president a speedy recovery, adding he's glad he vaccinated his kids, while also explaining how the news of him being hospitalised helpfully brought up the topic of vaccinations in adults.

"If he had infected a pregnant woman we would be facing a malformed child or an abortion", said Burioni, referring to Fedriga's unvaccinated state.

"The only way we can avoid these tragedies (because they are tragedies) is to vaccinate ourselves to prevent the circulation of this risky virus, which, as it has hit, could affect a much more vulnerable person".

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