Massimiliano Fedriga of Italy's populist Five Star Movement was struck ill with chickenpox earlier this week.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on March 21, 2019

Fedriga, who serves as the President of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and has previously been a leading advocate of the party’s anti-vaccination stance, spent four days in hospital with a severe bout of chickenpox.

He revealed the illness on his Twitter account and has since taken to Facebook to announce that he is now back in good health.

Fedriga previously claimed compulsory chickenpox vaccination was “Stalinist”

Fedriga had raged against mandatory vaccinations, including a shot for chickenpox. Curiously, though, he said that his own children were vaccinated.

His apparent bugbear was the mandatory nature of vaccinations. He once claimed that the government effectively forcing anti-vaccination campaigners to have the shots was “Stalinist”.

On his website MedicalFacts, prominent Microbiologist Roberto Burioni said Fedriga’s situation shone a light on the importance of getting vaccinated. “If he had been vaccinated as an adult he would be in perfect health” he wrote.

“If he had infected a pregnant woman we would be facing a malformed child or an abortion.

“The only way we have to avoid such tragedies is to vaccinate us all to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which could have hit a much more vulnerable person.”

Burioni, who specialises in disproving and countering fake medical news, warned his readers not to repeat Fedriga’s mistakes. “There is never a shortage of hospitalised patients, because they have not been vaccinated and are suffering hell punishment due to chickenpox,” he wrote. “See if you want to be one of them.”

Anti-vaccination sentiments are rife in Italy

The populist Five Star Movement in Italy had been active in advancing conspiracy theories about vaccines, though it seemed to back away from its hardline stance when Italy was ravaged by measles in 2017. In that year, Italy had 5,393 incidents and five deaths from measles, almost the same number of measles cases reported in the whole continent of Europe the previous year. The resurgence of measles across Italy has been linked to the anti-vaccination message spread by far right-wing politicians.

The country finally legislated for mandatory vaccinations for school children less than two weeks ago. The new law provides that a child will not be enrolled in school unless they have received the full complement of vaccines. Parents of unvaccinated children aged seven to 16 can also be fined.

Deputy Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini had called vaccines “useless and in many cases dangerous” and repeated discredited theories about them causing autism.