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How and when can you get a Covid-19 vaccine in Italy?

With Italy's Covid-19 vaccination campaign well underway, nearly 1.5 million people have already had both their shots. Here's how and when you can expect to get yours.

How and when can you get a Covid-19 vaccine in Italy?
Preparing a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Getting vaccinated isn’t compulsory in Italy, but it’s strongly recommended, free, and will ultimately be offered to every resident.

With a limited supply of vaccines, however, Italy has come up with a strict order of priority that means many of us will have to wait at least a few more months before we can get immunized.

Here’s who gets to go first, and how to get in line.

Who is Italy vaccinating first?

Italy began ‘phase one’ of its vaccination campaign at the end of December, when it first started administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to frontline health workers.

As set out in Italy’s national vaccination strategy, nursing home staff and residents were next in line. 

Despite a strong start, the roll-out stalled amid hold-ups in the supply chain. But by February, with hundreds of thousands of people in the two top priority groups fully vaccinated, Italy began extending the campaign to the general public. 

CHARTS: How many people has Italy vaccinated so far?

Its next priority group is people over 80, who are estimated to number around 4.4 million in Italy. 

But Italy revised its vaccination plan with the arrival of the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the Italian medicines agency recommends should only be used on adults aged 65 or under.

That proviso means that the AstraZeneca vaccine is earmarked for under-65s working in key sectors including schools, universities, prisons and the armed forces, while in parallel over-80s are getting either the Pfizer or Moderna version.

Because the campaign is delivered by separate regional health services, each region of Italy has its own vaccination timetable – but most have already started offering jabs to over-80s and key workers, or will do so shortly.

Who is next in line?

As EU regulators approve other vaccines and more doses arrive in Italy, vaccination will be extended to the groups next down the list:

  • People at very high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19, aged 16 up
  • People aged 75 to 79
  • People aged 70 to 74
  • People aged 16 to 69 with less severe health conditions
  • People aged 55 to 69
  • Everyone else aged 16 to 54

Find more information about Italy’s vaccine priority groups here.

When exactly these groups become eligible depends on how quickly new vaccines are approved, and how many doses arrive and when.

The national plan also says that doses can be reassigned if a new risk factor is identified or if there is a sudden outbreak in a particular area, for example.

What should I do if I’m eligible for a vaccine?

Vaccination at one of the roughly 1,500 specialised sites across Italy currently authorized to administer the shot is by appointment only. Do not go to a vaccination centre without registering first.

Most regional health services now allow eligible residents to book their jab online or by phone. You can also make an appointment on someone else’s behalf.

Depending on your region, you may be able to register via your usual doctor or in a pharmacy too.

Check your local health authority’s website or ask your GP about the procedure where you are. You’ll find links to all regional health services here

What if I’m not yet eligible?

It’s not yet clear when people further down the list can expect their shots. 

With around 4.6 million doses delivered in the first two months of the campaign, Italy’s new government has promised to speed up vaccinations, aiming to deliver 56 million doses by June (representing 28 million people fully immunized).

Currently around 108,000 doses are being administered daily.  At this rate, Italy would not meet its stated target of vaccinating most of the adult population until December 2021, instead of September as hoped.

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Under plans announced at the beginning of March, the new government says it wants to administer 200,000 doses per day this month, for a total of 6.2 million doses in March.

The number is set to rise to 400,000 per day in April (12 million per month), 500,000 in May (15.5 million) and 600,000 in June (18 million).

To facilitate this acceleration, the government reportedly plans to increase the number of vaccination sites in Italy to 2,000. These are expected to be operational by April.

Ultimately Italy plans to offer vaccination on a walk-in basis at pop-up centres around the country.

Can you get vaccinated privately in Italy?

No. The Health Ministry has stressed that Covid-19 vaccines should be free for all residents in Italy and does not allow any private facilities to offer them on a paid basis.

READ ALSO: Can foreigners in Italy get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Vaccination is expected to be offered without charge even to residents who are not registered with the Italian national health service (SSN), as is the case for other mandatory or recommended vaccines.

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HEALTH

Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Italy on Thursday reported its first case of monkeypox, joining a number of other European and North American nations in detecting the disease endemic in parts of Africa.

Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Monkeypox was identified in a young adult who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, Rome’s Spallanzani Institute for infectious diseases said.

He is being treated in isolation and is in a reasonable condition, it said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies, adding that two other suspected cases were being investigated.

Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for the Lazio region that includes Rome, confirmed on social media that it was the country’s first case, adding that the situation was being “constantly monitored”.

Cases of monkeypox have also been detected in Spain and Portugal – where more than 40 possible and verified cases have been reported – as well as Britain, Sweden, the United States and Canada.

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than smallpox’s: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was coordinating with UK and European health officials over the new outbreaks.

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