Covid-19: Italy threatens legal action over Pfizer vaccine delay

Italy is revising its vaccination plan this week and has threatened to take legal action against vaccine manufacturer Pfizer over a supply delay.

Covid-19: Italy threatens legal action over Pfizer vaccine delay
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The Italian government is revising its national plan for the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines due to the delay in supplies across Europe, Italy's Ansa news agency reports.

READ ALSO: Italian regions pause new Covid vaccinations after Pfizer supply delay

With fewer vaccines than expected to be available in the coming weeks, Italian ministers are meeting to review national distribution plans in order to ensure all regions can administer second doses to those who have had the first.

The unexpected shortage means most regional health authorities have now paused giving new first doses of the vaccine.

Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia on Wednesday confirmed that the government was considering legal action against pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer over the delay, and called on Italy's regional health authorities to show “solidarity” to ensure no part of the country runs out of vaccines.


“Protecting the health of Italian citizens is not negotiable,” Domenico Arcuri, the special commissioner for the pandemic, said in a statement late Tuesday.

He had called a meeting with ministers and regional leaders to consider how to protect the health of Italy's population “in all civil and criminal venues where possible”, he said.
“It was unanimously decided that these actions will be taken starting in the next few days.”
Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine was approved for use in the European Union in late December and has been quickly rolled out across European countries.
Italy began administering the Pfizer vaccine, to health workers and elderly care home residents first, on December 27th, the start of the European vaccine roll-out.

But just as Italy began distributing the second doses three weeks later, from January 17th., the vaccination campaign in Italy and elsewhere in Europe was hit by a temporary reduction in supplies of the vaccine by Pfizer.

Photo: AFP

Pfizer said last Friday it would delay shipments of vaccinations over the next three to four weeks due to works at its key processing plan in Belgium, which it says are needed to increase producton capacity.
The following day, in a joint statement with German vaccine partner BioNTech, the US drugmaker said it had a plan to limit delays of deliveries to one week.
Arcuri said that 29 percent of promised doses were not delivered this week.
“The vaccination campaign cannot be slowed down, even less so for the administration of the second doses for the many who have already been given the first.”

The vaccine is not yet available to the general population in Italy.

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Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Italy recorded a spike in cases of West Nile fever in the past week and remains by far the worst-affected country in Europe, new data shows.

Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Italy has recorded more than 50 new West Nile virus infections in a week, with a total number of 144 cases and ten fatalities this summer so far.

This equated to a 53 percent increase in cases over the last seven days, Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) said in a report published on Thursday.

Three more people died from the virus in the last week, bringing the total death toll up to 10. 

All known cases and deaths so far were in the northern Italian regions of Veneto, Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.

The infection is not new to Italy, but this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

READ ALSO: Italy reports a surge in deaths this summer due to extreme heat

Cases remain relatively rare in Europe overall, but Italy has by far the largest number.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 120 cases were recorded this year so far – 94 of which were in Italy.

Greece reported 23 cases, Romania two and Slovakia one. Only Italy has reported fatalities.

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

West Nile fever cannot pass from human to human and most infected people show no symptoms, according to the ISS.

In healthy people the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

There is no vaccine for West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

Italy’s health authorities advises taking precautions against mosquitos, especially during the insects’ peak activity at sunrise and sunset. Recommendations include:

  • Use repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.
  • Sleep in rooms with air-conditioning where possible and keep windows closed or screened.
  • Use mosquito nets.

See more information on West Nile fever in Italy on the health ministry’s website.