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HEALTH

Italy considers giving single dose of vaccine to people who have had Covid-19

People who have already been infected may need just one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to boost their immunity, the Italian health ministry says.

Italy considers giving single dose of vaccine to people who have had Covid-19
Empty doses of a Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

As Italy seeks to speed up its vaccination campaign, health authorities are considering giving people who have recently recovered from Covid-19 a single shot of one of the three vaccines currently in use, which usually require a double dose. 

The health ministry’s director of prevention, Giovanni Rezza, signed off on the idea in a new circular issued on Wednesday, while cautioning that it could be withdrawn if any of the new variants emerging are found to present a high risk of reinfection.

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

A single dose is being considered for people who tested positive for the new coronavirus at least three months earlier, but preferably no more than six months ago, the circular states. 

It would not apply to people with weakened immune systems, who would continue to receive both doses.

The proposal does not mean that people who have had Covid-19 would skip to the front of the queue or be specially summoned to get vaccinated. 

Instead, as and when they become eligible according to Italy’s vaccine priority list, they should inform the local health authorities and ideally provide evidence of when they were infected, for example a positive PCR test result. Health services already ask people if they have had Covid-19 on the consent forms they fill out before getting their shot.

The health ministry does not advise carrying out blood tests to check for antibodies, which medical experts do not consider a foolproof way of identifying who has previously been infected.

READ ALSO: 

Early studies have indicated that people who have already fought off Covid-19 can have a strong immune response after only the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, with the shot acting as a kind of booster to the antibodies they have already developed. In some cases, researchers say, these people show higher immunity after just one dose than people who have never been infected achieve after two.

But some experts caution that more research is needed to investigate how long the antibodies last and whether they are effective against new variants of the virus.

With more than 2.4 million people in Italy known to have recovered from Covid-19, giving only one shot could save much needed supplies as Italy struggles to keep up with its vaccination timetable. 

The new government has said it will make speeding up the campaign a top priority, announcing a target this week to increase the number of vaccination centres and deliver a total of 56 million doses by June. 

Around 4.8 million have been administered to date, just over two months into the programme.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires just one dose for full protection, has not yet been approved for use in the European Union.

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HEALTH

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.

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