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HEALTH

Covid-19: Italy to begin vaccinating health workers on December 27th

The first person to get the vaccine in Italy will be a nurse, Rome's Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital has announced.

Covid-19: Italy to begin vaccinating health workers on December 27th
Five staff at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome will be the first to be vaccinated in Italy. Photo: AFP
The unnamed nurse will be one of five people to get the jab on Sunday as Italy begins its vaccination programme, news agency Ansa reports.
 
“On Sunday 27th December, V-Day, the first five anti-COVID vaccines will be administered to as many employees of the Institute, precisely: a nurse, an operator socio-sanitary (OSS), a researcher and two doctors,” stated management at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases on Tuesday.
 
The nurse and the two doctors will then work on administering vaccines to colleagues.
 
The hospital has been at the centre of Italy's fight against the coronavirus outbreak since the first positive cases were discovered in Italy in January.
 
The announcement came after the European Commission and European Medicines Agency on Monday gave the green light to use of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in Europe.
 

European countries are eager to speedily begin vaccinating their populations in an attempt to prevent the virus from getting out of control once again, following the recent discovery of the new Covid-19 strain in the UK that health experts have said could be up to 70 percent more contagious.
 
However Italian health officials have insisted the vaccine will work on this and other new strains of cornavirus.
 
 
Italy, which will get its vaccines via the EU's procurement programme, had last week announced it would begin its vaccination programme in January.
 
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.

Doctors and health care workers will get the first doses – some 1.4 million people – the health ministry 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 

Dozens of potential vaccines against Covid-19 are currently being developed and tested. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

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

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

There will be about 300 of the vaccine distribution sites at first, rising to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is at its peak later in the year, according to Coronavirus Emeregency Commissioner. Domenico Arcuri.
 
“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.

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).

Italy's government was confident most of the population could be vaccinated by September, Reuters reports.

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.

However Italy has a sizeable anti-vaccine movement.

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.

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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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