The president of Italy’s National Institute of Health Walter Ricciardi has resigned. And he has blamed the country’s ruling far-right Northern League and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S).
He said the anti-scientific positions and xenophobic of members of the current populist government were behind his resignation. In an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Ricciardi explained that “representatives of the government have endorsed unscientific or frankly anti-scientific positions on many issues”.
As reported by Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster, Ricciardi also said that after four and a half years at the institute, he had achieved the goals he set out to accomplish: the financial recovery, reorganisation and re-launch of the institute.
Ricciardi aimed his criticism at League head and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the deputy prime minister.
“It’s clear that when the deputy prime minister says that he, as a father, believes there are too many vaccines, and that they are useless and dangerous, that it’s not just an unscientific approach. It’s anti-scientific.”
In 2017, the previous centre-left government instituted compulsory vaccination for school children against 10 diseases including measles, tetanus and polio. M5S and League politicians, then in the opposition, opposed the law, saying it benefited pharmaceutical companies and making the discredited claim that vaccines can cause autism. In August 2018 with the populist government in control, the Italian upper house of parliament passed a bill eliminating compulsory vaccination.
The World Health Organization warned as recently as November 2018 that measles rose 30% worldwide in 2017, including in European countries due to misinformation about a vaccine proven to be safe.
“Saying repeatedly that migrants carry diseases is groundless and… forces a self-censorship in order not to contradict the political line,” said Ricciardi, also adding that government insistence that waste-to-energy plants were “a thing of the past” was nonsensical. “And yet these are key issues for health prevention and public health,” he said.
In a separate report, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that the ruling coalition shocked the Italian scientific committee in December when it sacked the entire board of the committee of technical and scientific experts who advise the government on health policy.