Italy makes Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers

The Italian government will require healthcare professionals to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or stop serving the public, in a bid to protect the vulnerable and curb the 'anti-vax' movement.

Italy makes Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers
Medical workers prepare vaccines in northern Italy. Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government will introduce the requirement in its new emergency decree, the government announced on Wednesday night.

All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists now that Italy has authorized vaccination to take place in pharmacies, will be obliged to get vaccinated in order to continue in their roles.


Those who refuse could be suspended, without pay, until the end of the year. The bill will allow those refusing to be vaccinating to be reassigned, if possible, in roles away from the public.

“The aim of the measure is to protect, as much as possible, both medical and paramedical staff and those who are in environments that may be more exposed to the risk of infection,” the government said in its statement announcing the new measures.

Included in the decree is also a measure to protect those administering the doses from legal action. Medics had called for  safeguarding after healthcare workers in Sicily were investigated for manslaughter following the death of a man who had been vaccinated.

The latest decree “excludes the criminal liability of medical and health personnel in charge of administering the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, for the crimes of culpable homicide and culpable personal injury committed during the emergency period”, the government said. 

This applies as long as health professionals give the vaccinations in accordance with government guidelines.

Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Speaking last Friday, Draghi told a news conference that the government cannot allow unvaccinated workers to be in contact with sick people.

The day before, Liguria’s regional president Giovanni Toti called for a national law after at least 12 people were infected with coronavirus at two hospitals in the area due to two unvaccinated health workers.

“In light of the need to protect citizens at a fragile time, such as hospitalisation, there may be the legal conditions, and also political, for a measure,” Toti said.

“It’s clear that we need a national law, because we risk chaos in our hospitals in a few weeks,” he added, calling for a “clear regulatory framework”.

Italy has a small but significant “anti-vaxx” movement and some experts fear their numbers may swell following safety fears over the AstraZeneca coronavirus jab.

The use of the vaccine was suspended in March across several EU countries before the bloc’s regulator declared it safe.

How many health workers in Italy have opted not to be vaccinated is unknown, although Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday that it amounted to a “very minimal” number of people.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi was vaccinated with the first dose of AstraZeneca on Tuesday. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP)

PM got vaccinated with AstraZeneca

Mario Draghi received his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, to show support for the jab after Italy paused its rollout in March over concerns about possible rare side effects.

Jabs resumed after the European Medicines Agency re-confirmed it was “safe and effective” against Covid-19. The World Health Organisation also gave the all-clear.

Italy has struggled with its vaccination campaign, as logistical and organisational problems add to EU-wide supply shortages.

Italy is particularly lagging behind on vaccinations for the elderly, despite them being at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The country has now administered over 10 million doses and fully vaccinated just over 3.1 million people of the total population of 60 million.

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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.