Johnson & Johnson will begin delivering its single-shot vaccine to Europe on April 19th, the company told AFP on Monday.
Italian officials had told reporters earlier in the day that they expected to see the vaccine in Italy by mid-April.
Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, who is in charge of Italy’s vaccination logistics and has been tasked with drastically accelerating the campaign, also said that another 3 million doses of other vaccines would arrive in Italy “by the end of the month”.
Countries across the European Union are awaiting their first deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after EU drug regulators approved it in early March.
The EU has ordered at least 200 million doses in total. More than 26.5 million of those are reserved for Italy, including 7.3 million that are due to arrive between April and June – though some countries, including Denmark, have already been warned that they will get fewer doses in the first delivery than planned.
The new vaccine, which would be the fourth in use in Italy after the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca versions and the only one so far requiring just a single dose, could help Italy get closer to its target of administering 500,000 shots a day by May.
Its vaccination roll-out has been hampered by supply delays and logistical problems, including faulty booking systems that failed to notify some people of their appointments. Progress also varies considerably across regions, which have separate public health services and the freedom to set their own timetables.
The new Italian government has focused on expanding Italy’s vaccination infrastructure, with new mega-centres in Rome, Milan and Genova capable of delivering thousands of shots per day.
And on Monday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a new protocol with Italian pharmacists to allow jabs to take place in pharmacies, in what he called “an important step forward to make [vaccination] faster and more widespread”.
According to the latest official data, Italy has fully vaccinated nearly 3 million people so far, while roughly another 3.5 million have had their first shot only.