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HEALTH

IN NUMBERS: The first month of Italy’s vaccine programme

One month in and Italy's vaccination rollout hasn't entirely gone to plan. Here's a detailed look at the progress so far.

IN NUMBERS: The first month of Italy's vaccine programme
Health workers are first in line for the Covid-19 vaccine in Italy. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy is in 'phase one' of its vaccination campaign, which began on December 27th when a 29-year-old nurse became one of the first people in Italy to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, along with a virology professor and a social health worker.

By mid-January, Italy had vaccinated one million people and became one of the leading EU countries in terms of the speed of its vaccine roll out.

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

But last week the number of vaccines being given slowed dramatically after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced a supply delay affecting all of Europe.

AstraZeneca also announced that its vaccine, set to be approved at the end of January, would not be distributed as quickly as planned.

While Italy has some stocks of the vaccine left, the hold-ups in the supply chain mean most regions of Italy are currently concentrating on delivering the second dose to those who have already had the first three to four weeks earlier.

The government had to revise its national vaccine plan, meaning new vaccinations have been paused until supplies are restored.

The European Medicines Agency will rule on the AstraZeneca vaccine on January 29th and the Italian government will again reassess immunisation plans after that.

Here's a closer look at how Italy is doing with vaccinations after the first month:

Latest numbers

1.6 million – As of Thursday January 28th, Italy has administered 1.602.332 doses of the vaccine according to health ministry data.

150,000 – The number of people who have received the second dose of the vaccine to date.

75 percent – Of the roughly 2.1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines delivered to regional health services around Italy since December 27th, to date 75.3 percent have been administered.

CHARTS: How many people has each region of Italy vaccinated so far?

5 percent – The percentage of the population to be vaccinated during phase one of Italy's vaccine plan, which prioritises frontline health workers, care home staff and residents, and over-80s. After that, the vaccine will be made available to other groups.

14,000 – The number of members of the public who have been vaccinated so far. These are in the over-80s age group, to be vaccinated as a priority during phase one.

6-8 weeks – the expected delay to Italy's vaccine programme as a result of the supply delay.

90,000 – The number of vaccines being administered daily in Italy until the supply delay was announced. This week, the figure had dropped by more than two thirds to 25,000. It is set to increase again when supplies are restored.

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

300 – The approximate number of vaccine distribution sites across Italy so far. Authorities have promised will rise to 1,500 once the campaign gets into full swing later in the year.

The government plans to start constructing pop-up vaccination kiosks in towns and cities throughout the country, a project it said would begin this month. 

The government said in December that it was confident it could vaccinate most of the adult population by September 2021 – though this may no longer be possible following the supply delay.

For more information about the coronavirus situation in Italy, please see the Italian Health Ministry's website (in English).

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ENVIRONMENT

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy

The northern cities of Milan and Turin were named Italy's 'smog capitals' in a new pollution report on Monday which urged the government to take action over poor air quality.

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy
Photo: Pixabay

Smog and pollution are choking Italian cities year-round and many towns are exceeding limits on fine particles and other pollution, according to another report from Italian environmental watchdog Legambiente.

The Mal’aria di città (Air pollution in the city) report for 2023, unveiled on Monday, was the latest to warn about the risks to health posed by pollution in many parts of the country.

It found that 25 of 95 cities monitored had violated clean air ordinances by exceeding daily fine particle (PM10) emission limits, which are currently set at no more than 35 days a year with a daily average of over 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

Turin was ranked as the worst offender, exceeding this level on 90 days, closely followed by Milan (84), Asti (79), Modena (75), and Padua and Venice at 70.

These were followed by Cremona, Treviso, Mantua and Rovigo, all of which exceeded limits to a lesser degree.

All of the most polluted cities were in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, with most within the north-western ‘industrial triangle’.

Some southern cities featured nearer the bottom of the ranking, with Andria (Puglia) and Ragusa (Sicily) exceeding limits on several days, as well as Rome, which overshot the permitted level for one day.

(Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The average annual rate of PM10 emissions nationwide dropped slightly, by two percent year-on-year, the report found.

“This, however, is not enough to guarantee the health of citizens,” said Stefano Ciafani, president of Legambiente.

He pointed out that the situation looked even worse if air quality in Italian cities were measured against tighter limits under the new European Directive on air quality, in force from 2030, which lowers the PM10 threshold from 35 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“Only 23 out of 96 cities (24 percent) would be under these limits,” Ciafani said, while 84 percent would exceed the threshold for PM2.5 and 61 percent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union over air quality, and has “persistently and systematically” breached EU recommended limits, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2020.

The north of Italy has long been ranked among the worst areas in Europe for polluted air according to data from the European Environment Agency.

“Air pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also a health problem of great importance,” said Ciafani. “In Europe, it’s the main cause of premature death due to environmental factors.”

“Italy has more than 52,000 deaths per year caused by PM2.5 emissions, equal to a fifth of those recorded throughout the continent,” he said.

The main causes of air pollution in Italian cities are reported to be industry, inefficient domestic heating systems, agricultural practices and, most of all, heavy traffic.

In Italy, cars continue to be by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of journeys overall are made by car, Legambiante wrote, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy’s towns and cities.

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Legambiente said “drastic” measures were required to tackle the problem, including funds for more efficient heating systems in homes and public buildings and a major increase in public transport provision.

The group said Italy must “quadruple the availability of public transit, promoting integrated season tickets as done by Germany in 2022”, triple the number of electric buses, create zero-emission zones in town centres, and “create another 16,000 kilometres of cycle paths”.

It also praised local authorities choosing to bring in 30 km/h speed limits in city centres. Councils in Bologna, Turin, Milan and Cesena have all said they plan to implement these limits, following the lead of European cities including Paris and Madrid, despite fierce criticism from Italian transport minister Matteo Salvini.

Legambiente published a petition urging the government to make clean air and more livable cities a priority, saying Italy should follow Paris in attempting to create ’15-minute cities’, in which everyone lives within a quarter of an hour’s walk of vital amenities such as shops and schools and possibly also workplaces.