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Coronavirus: Italy announces plan to launch major vaccination campaign in January

Italy is preparing to launch a massive vaccination campaign in January, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Saturday - provided one is available by then.

Coronavirus: Italy announces plan to launch major vaccination campaign in January
Potential Covid-19 vaccines are being tested around the world. Photo: Yasin Akgul/AFP
The vaccine drive “will get underway towards the end of January when we hope to have the first doses,” Speranza told a meeting of pharmacists.
 
“This campaign will be without precedent… it will require an extraordinary mobilisation” of resources, he said.
 
 
Italy, among European countries now struggling with a second wave of the pandemic, has recorded some 1.3 million cases and a death toll of nearly 50,000 since the coronavirus took hold early this year.
 
There has been a global effort to find treatments and vaccines and earlier this month US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech reported a breakthrough with a jab shown to be more than 90 percent effective.

Several potential vaccines have shown promising results in clinical trials, including one about to be tested in Italy on hundreds of volunteers.

The Italian government has appointed a task force to plan how and where the first doses will be delivered when international regulators approve a successful vaccine. 

“Vaccines represent a huge advance in the history of humanity,” said Speranza.
 
 “Today we are talking about the concrete possibility that… in a short time we will dispose of this tool and that gives a measure of the capacity of human beings to react in the face of such a large challenge,” he added.
 
READ ALSO: 
The expert group set up to advise the Italian government said on Friday that both national and international oversight of vaccine development “gives us
guarantees” on their safety.

However, one recent survey found that nearly 50 percent of people asked in Italy said they would have doubts about getting vaccinated, including 11 percent who described themselves as “completely against” a vaccine.

Scientists estimate that 60-90 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated – possibly every year – to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus and stop future outbreaks.

The vaccine will be free in Italy, Health Minister Roberto Speranza has long maintained, and looks likely to be voluntary.

“The vaccine is the only definitive solution to Covid-19. As far as I'm concerned it will always be a global public asset, a right for everyone, not the privilege of a few,” he said back in June.

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HEALTH

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

From ear piercings to flu jabs, Italian ‘farmacie’ are among the most useful stores in the country, but they’re also very odd places. Here are our tips on getting through the pharmacy experience.

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

Italian pharmacies aren’t just stores selling prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

As a customer, you’ll find all sorts of natural remedies, basic health supplies and personal care items on their shelves. 

You’ll also be able to receive basic medical services (for instance, blood pressure checks, Covid tests and flu jabs) and some non-health-related ones (like getting your ears pierced!) in most branches. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I still get the flu vaccine in Italy? 

But, while being extremely useful stores, Italian farmacie (pronunciation available here) are also peculiar places and their set of unwritten rules and solidified traditions may well throw off newcomers.. 

So here are five tips that might help you complete your first expeditions to your local pharmacy without making a fool of yourself.

1 – Decipher your doctor’s scribbles before your trip

Much like some of their foreign colleagues, Italian GPs have a penchant for writing prescriptions that no one else is actually able to read. 

We might never find out why doctors seem so intent on making ancient hieroglyphs fashionable again, but their calligraphic efforts will surely get in the way of you trying to buy whatever medicine you need to survive. 

To avoid hiccups, make sure you know exactly what you need to get. If in doubt, reach out to your GP to confirm.

Don’t rely on pharmacists being able to figure out your doctor’s handwriting because they often have no clue either.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to make a doctor’s appointment in Italy 

Pharmacy in Codogno, near Milan

In most small towns and rural areas local pharmacies have very ‘thin’ opening hours. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

2 – Double-check the pharmacy’s opening times

If you’re from the UK or the US, you might be used to pharmacies being open from 8am to 10pm on weekdays and having slightly reduced opening times over the weekend. 

You can forget about that in Italy. In big cities, most pharmacies will shut no later than 8pm on weekdays and will be closed on either Saturdays or Sundays.

READ ALSO: Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Italy 

As for small towns or villages, opening times will have a nice Middle Ages vibe to them, with local stores remaining shut on weekends and keeping their doors open from 9am to 12.30pm and then from 3.30pm to 7.30pm on weekdays. 

So always check your local pharmacy’s hours before leaving home and, should their times not be available online, call them up. An awkward phone conversation with the pharmacist is still preferable to a wasted trip.

3 – Get the ‘numerino

Some Italian pharmacies have a ticket-dispensing machine with the aim of regulating the queue – a concept which is still foreign to many across the country.

All customers are expected to get a numbered paper ticket (the famed ‘numerino’) from the above machine and wait for their number to be called to walk up to the pharmacist’s desk. 

Now, the law of the land categorically prohibits customers from getting within a five-metre radius of the desk without a numerino

Also, trying to break that rule may result in a number of disdainful sideways glances from local customers.

4 – You cannot escape the in-store conversations, so embrace them 

Pharmacies aren’t just stores. They’re a cornerstone of Italian life and locals do a good deal of socialising on the premises. 

After all, the waiting times are often a bit dispiriting, so how can you blame them for killing the time?

Small pharmacy in Italy

Pharmacies are an essential part of Italian life and culture. Photo by Marco SABADIN / AFP

You might think that locals won’t want to talk to you because you’re a foreigner or don’t know the language too well, but you’ll marvel at how chatty some are.

While chit-chat might not be your cup of tea, talking with locals might help you improve your Italian, so it’s worth a shot.

5 – “Vuoi scaricarlo?”

The pharmacist finally gets you what you need and you’re now thinking that your mission is over. Well, not yet.

Before charging you for the items in question, the pharmacist will ask you whether you’d like to ‘scaricarli’ (literally, ‘offload them’) or not, which, no matter how good your Italian is, will not make any sense to you.

What the pharmacist is actually asking you is whether you want to link the purchase to your codice fiscale (tax code). 

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code (and why you need one)   

That’s because Italy offers residents a 19-percent discount on some health-related expenses, which can be claimed through one’s annual income declaration (dichiarazione dei redditi) by attaching the receipts of all the eligible payments.

Whether you want to scaricare or not, this is the last obstacle before you can make your way back home.

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