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VACCINE

Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive in Italy in mid-April

The first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against Covid-19 will arrive in Italy within three weeks, according to the pharmaceutical company's delivery schedule.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive in Italy in mid-April
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose. Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP

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.

Waiting for vaccinations at a hospital in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

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.

IN CHARTS: Which regions of Italy are vaccinating people fastest?

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.

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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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