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‘A disaster’: Italy scrambles to tackle vaccine delays

Italian health services are under pressure to speed up Covid-19 vaccinations amid reports of faulty booking systems in northern Italy failing to notify people of their appointments.

'A disaster': Italy scrambles to tackle vaccine delays
People wait outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The vaccine rollout in Italy’s hardest-hit region of Lombardy has been badly hampered by problems with booking systems, with at least one injection centre nearly empty at the weekend.

It’s been “a disaster, since the start,” the mayor of Crema city, Stefania Bonaldi, told the La Repubblica newspaper. “There is a bug in the system that needs fixing.”

READ ALSO: The essential Italian you need to get tested or vaccinated for Covid-19

A vaccination centre in the provincial capital Cremona was nearly empty over the weekend after people were not informed of their vaccine appointments.

Local officials scrambled to inform locals by calling them manually after looking up phone numbers in the civil registry, and one mayor borrowed a minivan to pick up the elderly from their homes, La Repubblica reported.

Similar problems were reported in the Como and Brianza provinces.

Lombardy’s health minister Letizia Moratti pledged to take “quick and drastic decisions” to address the “unacceptable” situation. Regional president Attilio Fontana said he had asked the board of Aria, the regionally-owned company that manages vaccination bookings, to resign over the fiasco.

The region plans to switch its booking system to a platform developed by the Italian Post Office and already in use in other parts of the country.

Italy has reported vaccine delays across the country, a situation aggravated by the medicine agency’s decision to halt injections of the AstraZeneca vaccine for several days last week until EU regulators re-confirmed it was “safe and effective”

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To date Italy has administered 7.8 million doses and fully vaccinated just under 2.5 million people — around 4.1 percent of a total population of 60 million.

There have also been major discrepancies across the country in terms of vaccinating the elderly, in part due to the fact that each region controls its own health service and can set its own vaccination schedule.

The percentage of people over 80 who have been fully vaccinated ranges from 36.5 percent in South Tyrol to 2.6 percent in Sardinia, according to the GIMBE independent health think.

A temporary vaccination hub in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi / AFP

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who took office last month promising to use “all means” to fight the pandemic, has pledged a massive scale-up of vaccinations.

Speaking last week, he admitted that “regions are going all over the place [with vaccinations] and this is not good, not good”.

The government has set a target to triple vaccinations to 500,000 per day by mid-April, and to fully vaccinate 80 percent of the population by mid-September.

Yet Italy is only forecast to deliver 200,000 shots a day this week after a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine scheduled for last week was cancelled when injections were paused. The extra doses will now be delivered in the coming days.

The health ministry promised to “double” the number of AstraZeneca shots after the suspension was lifted, having cost Italy around 200,000 vaccinations over four days.

It says jabs will be carried out in pharmacies and doctors’ offices to help speed up the process, though the biggest obstacle remains the shortage of doses.

Member comments

  1. Italy is so bob-on with its computer system associated with motoring. A parking fine, a speeding fine, taxation… whatever, are delivered pretty quickly. Similarly with its community tax, water and refuse. So why the big problem with vaccination? Is it just a health issue?

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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