Anti-Vaccination Legislation Advocate Hospitalized With Chickenpox

A leading anti-vaccination legislation figure and member of Italy's far-right Northern League party has been admitted to hospital to be treated for chickenpox.

Massimiliano Fedriga, who is the president of Italy's northeastern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, announced his hospital stay on social media, according to La Vanguardia.

Fedriga has previously argued against Italy's Lorenzin decree—named after Beatrice Lorenzi, the minister of health who oversaw the policy. The 2017 legislation made vaccination for 10 diseases—including polio and measles—compulsory for all children before they would be allowed to attend school. He admitted he had vaccinated his own children but says such measures should not be forced on other people.

The politician is now at home recovering and thanked all those who had sent him messages of support and well wishes, La Vanguardia reported.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that can be deadly in adults. It is caused by the by the varicella-zoster virus, for which there is a vaccine. Though it is not 100 percent effective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that it provides complete protection for around 98 percent of people who receive both recommended doses.

Fedriga has denied being explicitly anti-vaccination, but has argued that forcing skeptical parents to inoculate their children is not the best way to win them round. "I have always said that I am in favor of vaccines and to achieve the result is necessary to form an alliance with families, not impose [it on them]," he has previously said, according to The Daily Mail.

"[The critics] even said I would get chicken pox from my children, not realizing that my children are vaccinated, as I have stated in many interviews."

The League is ruling Italy in coalition with the anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle—Five Star Movement—(M5S). The two parties were both openly skeptical of vaccinations during last year's election campaign, and ministers for both parties have been critical of the science.

Last year, for example, Minister of Health and M5S member Giulia Grillo said the state should not coerce parents into immunizing their children, though she agreed that parents should willingly take the precaution.

Well-known microbiologist Roberto Burioni sent his best wishes to Fedriga on Facebook, and used the opportunity to speak to the danger of anti-vaccination sentiment. "The only way we have to avoid these tragedies (because they are tragedies) is to vaccinate us all to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which…could have hit a much more vulnerable person," he wrote.

He added that those who refuse to respect the science of inoculation "endanger without reason and in the name of ignorance and selfishness…the lives of others."

anti-vaxx Italy Chickenpox
This file photo shows a nurse holding a syringe with a vaccine in Lynwood, California, on August, 27, 2013. The CDC estimates that the chickenpox vaccine provides complete protection for around 98 percent of people who receive both recommended doses. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images