Italy’s health minister wants to use AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s

Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, has asked the government to extend the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine to people over the age of 65, a spokesman for the health minister told Reuters on Friday, March 5th.

Astrazeneca Covid vaccine
Tiziana FABI / AFP

When the AstraZeneca vaccine, also commonly referred to as the Oxford vaccine, was approved by the EU, Italy was among several countries which were hesitant about giving the vaccine to older patients, saying that there was a lack of sufficient data for its efficacy.

Now, however, a new Scottish study has shown a significant decrease in the risk of a serious illness from Covid-19 across all age groups following inoculation, including those over 65.

On February 23rd, Italy approved the vaccine for anyone up to the age of 65, with the exception of “extremely vulnerable” people.

The final decision on if the vaccine will be approved for over-65s however, will be up to Italy’s medicines agency AIFA who said: “the position could be revised if new data will allow it”. 

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

This week, Germany’s vaccine commission also reconsidered and is now recommending the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for people over the age of 65.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, March 3rd, that the commission would be changing their position on the AstraZeneca jab.

In France, Health Minister Olivier Véran also announced on Monday, March 1st that people aged between 65 and 74 with an underlying health condition can now access the AstraZeneca vaccine through their registered GP.

Speranza also suggested creating a special vaccine “solidarity fund” by saving 1-2 percent of the doses supplied, for areas where the virus is spreading especially fast, in part because of the arrival of new variants. 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”