Gemmato claims comments about vaccines were taken out of context.
Italian health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato on Tuesday hit back at calls for his resignation after saying there was no proof that the covid situation in Italy would have been worse without vaccines.
Gemmato, a pharmacist by profession and a member of premier Giorgia Meloni's far-right Fratelli d'Italia party, sparked debate over his comments on Italian state television channel Rai2 on Monday night.
In reply to a remark by journalist Aldo Cazzullo that the covid pandemic would have been worse without vaccines, Gemmato stated: "That's what you say. We do not have the reverse burden of proof. But I'm not falling into the trap of taking sides for or against vaccines."
Un sottosegretario alla Salute che nega i #vaccini non può rimanere in carica. #Gemmato #Restart #art54Cost— Enrico Letta (@EnricoLetta) November 15, 2022
His remarks were widely condemned by opposition politicians including Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico, who tweeted: "A health undersecretary who denies vaccines cannot remain in office."
Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione party, wrote on Twitter: "Gemmato must resign. A health undersecretary who does not distance himself from no-vaxxers is definitely in the wrong job."
On Tuesday afternoon Gemmato sought to defuse the growing row over his remarks which he claimed had been manipulated and "taken out of context".
In a statement he described vaccines as "precious weapons" in the fight against covid, saying: "I have always supported the validity of vaccines and the ability they have to protect above all the most fragile".
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