‘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”


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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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”