Italian prime minister gets AstraZeneca vaccine

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi received his first dose of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, his office said, in an announcement intended to show support for the jab.

Italian prime minister gets AstraZeneca vaccine
Prime Minister Mario Draghi visits a vaccination hub earlier this month. Photo: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP

The PM and his wife, Maria Serenella Cappello, got their jabs at a pop-up vaccination centre at Rome’s central Termini station, a spokesman said.

Draghi and Cappello, both 73, were eligible for vaccination by age group in the Lazio region, which extended the campaign to people in their 70s earlier this month and is now vaccinating people in their late 60s and up.

Italy paused use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jabs for several days earlier this month following fears of a link to blot clots, before the European Medicines Agency gave the all-clear.

The World Health Organization has also said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe to use.

Draghi, who took office last month, has promised to ramp up the number of vaccinations in Italy, which was the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic and is currently battling a third wave.

READ ALSO: Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive in Italy in mid-April

Another 3 million doses are due to be delivered to Italy “by the end of the month“, according to Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, while the single-shot Johnson & Johnson is expected to arrive from April 19th.

Most of Italy remains under tight restrictions, although schools and nurseries reopened in the Lazio region surrounding Rome on Tuesday for the first time in two weeks, after it was reclassified from a “red zone” to a lower-risk “orange zone”.

The whole country will be put under a “red zone” lockdown over the long Easter weekend from April 3rd to 5th in a bid to limit  new cases of Covid-19.

More than 108,000 people have died of the coronavirus so far in Italy, according to the official health ministry toll, while just over 3 million have been fully vaccinated.


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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.