Prevention as a primary goal: we must start with vaccination – Interview with Valentina Mantua (October 22nd, 2015)
(text also available in Italian)
Hello Valentina, could you introduce yourself?
I am a psychiatrist. I spent part of my training in the Netherlands and in the UK. I have a PhD in neurobiology and I further trained in Economy and Healthcare Management.
Since 2012, I have dealt with the clinical development of medications from both a scientific and a regulatory perspective, in Italy and Europe. I am the author of several scientific publications in international journals, but also of popular articles in Italian newspapers and magazines, because I am committed to the cultural battle for a correct scientific information. My CV (pdf) and some of my papers are available online
What is your role with PD Lazio?
I am the coordinator of “Forum Salute e Sanità” (Health and Healthcare Forum) together with Giancarlo D’Alessandro.
Once I got involved in this project I stressed the accent on the word “Health” rather than Healthcare as such, because our real interest is for the actual health status of Italian citizens and not only for the organizational aspects of the healthcare system. In this perspective, also the controversy about the spending cuts loses its significance: it is not important the amount of the spending per se, but that this spending corresponds to an increase of the overall population health. It is difficult, I know, but it is the only thing that matters.
These days there is much controversy about vaccines. Have you discussed this issue at the Forum?
Yes of course we have, indeed the first proposal of the Forum for a prosperous and sustainable Regional Health Service (SSR: Servizio Sanitario Regionale) is the capability to reach the large community of citizens with effective prevention programs. In the context of primary prevention, vaccinations have a key role, as it is shown by the positive balance in terms of risk / benefit and cost / benefit. From the data published by the Ministry of Health (see the table below) we can see that the pediatric vaccines coverage in the Lazio region are above the national average and above the 95% threshold. The figure for the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine coverage is 88%: thus still higher than the 87% threshold of first alarm and far from the 75% health emergency level. This notwithstanding, the overall national context can not be ignored and the data coming from some regions clearly show strong reluctance towards pediatric vaccination and misinformation.
Are there examples in the world of children who cannot attend school because they are not vaccinated?
The vaccination requirements for schools is a controversial topic for its ethical implications and the situation in the European Member States is very diverse between mandatory vaccinations and recommended ones.
In most US States, it is obligatory to show the vaccinations certificate to attend public schools, but parents can fill out an exemption form which describes the cultural or religious or medical grounds for why their child has not been vaccinated. Just in the United States, after several major outbreaks of measles in 2014 (one of 383 cases in the Amish community and another with an epicenter in Disneyland) some States have decided to publish a map of vaccine coverage in schools.
It was then reminisced the case of Australia, where former Prime Minister Abbott had pledged to curb the welfare of families with children who are not vaccinated.
And what do you think should the role of politics be with regards to these events?
Politics must hold the bar straight and follow the scientific method in the verification of the information.
In this way we could have avoided some of the mistakes made in the past.
Unfortunately, issues of science and medicine often generate controversies and the public opinion follows emotion rather than rationality, in search of hope.
I remember for example the recent “Stamina”case.
The task of the Italian Democratic Party is to promote a model of “Politics of Knowledge” as opposed to those who ride the emotional wave in search of an easy consensus which is often irresponsible and dangerous.
In the case of vaccines, primary prevention is not based only on individual adherence but involves the whole political system of public health.
Protecting Healthcare leaves no room for personal opinions and requires one to always have in mind a very clear priority of the collective good.
What are the plans for the Forum?
We are organizing a public event in late November with Lorenza Bonaccorsi, President of the Lazio Democratic Party, Fabio Melilli Secretary of PD Lazio and Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of Lazio Region. The meeting, which we might call “Towards the General States of Health”, will be a moment of reflection upon the common principles of our program and presentation of the working groups and the future objectives of the “Health and Healthcare Forum” of PD Lazio
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