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‘Light at the end of the tunnel’: Italy approves plan to begin Covid vaccinations in January

Italy's health minister said the Covid-19 vaccine was a "light at the end of the tunnel" but urged continued vigilance, as tougher restrictions are expected to be introduced over Christmas.

'Light at the end of the tunnel': Italy approves plan to begin Covid vaccinations in January
A render showing the design of Italy's planned Covid vaccination kiosks. Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti

A proposal from Italy's coronavirus emergency commissioner Domenico Arcuri's to start a programme of mass vaccinations in early January was approved on Wednesday at a meeting between the central government and Italy's regional heads.

Authorities stressed that vaccines against the disease caused by the novel coronavirus would not be immediately distributed to the general population, but would be rolled out first to high-risk groups including medical staff and the elderly.
 
Italy will get its vaccines via an EU procurement programme and is waiting for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to give the green light.
 
Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Wednesday welcomed news that the EMA was bringing forward to next Monday a meeting to discuss conditional approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – which is already being distributed in the United States and Britain.
 
“It's good news that the process can be completed before Christmas,” Speranza said in a statement.

“We still need to be careful and cautious in the coming months until we have achieved sufficient vaccination coverage, but we're on the right path and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
 
His words came as Italy's government considers introducing further restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus over the Christmas holiday period.

 
Photo: AFP
 
Italy is among the European countries which have agreed to coordinate their Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, the countries’ health ministers said on Tuesday.
 
Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland will promote “the coordination of the launch of the vaccination campaigns” and will share information on their progress, a joint statement read.

Who will be first to get the vaccine?

Once approval comes, doctors and health care workers will get the first doses – some 1.4 million people – the health ministry has said.

They will be followed by residents in care homes – just over 570,000 people.

Those aged over 80 will be next in line, followed by those aged 60-79, and those suffering from at least one chronic disease.

Vaccines will then be distributed to key workers – teachers, police, prison wardens 

After that, it will be offered to the general population at walk-in centres and specially-designed kiosks.

The vaccine will be free, and will not be obligatory.

While the government has not given official confirmation, it is unlikely that the vaccinations will be limited to Italian citizens.

All current mandatory or recommended vaccines are available to everyone living in the country – including those not registered with the SSN (National Health Service).

Pop-up vaccine kiosks

The Italian government this week announced that it will begin constructing pop-up vaccine kiosks in towns and cities throughout the country, starting in January. 

The distinctive white structures, designed by architect Stefano Boeri, will each be adorned with a flower graphic intended to symbolise “serenity and regeneration.”

There will be about 300 of the vaccine distribution sites at first, rising to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is at its peak, Arcuri said.
 
“We may be able to build a few gazebos at the start of the campaign, but these structures are for when all Italians will start getting vaccinated,” he said.
 
Italy’s government was confident most of the population could be vaccinated by September, Reuters reports.
 
The government is expected to provide further details of the vaccine roll-out plan in the coming days.

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.

Member comments

  1. Thank you for your coverage of the vaccination efforts in Italy. Is there any progress for the pop-up vaccination kiosks? It could be a model that other countries follow.

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COVID-19

Reader Question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader Question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a Letter of Recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

Anyone who tests positive in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle or recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

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