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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Italy faces September elections after Draghi resigns

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella dissolved parliament on Thursday, triggering snap elections in September which could bring the hard right to power after bickering parties toppled the government.

Italy faces September elections after Draghi resigns

Elections will take place on September 25th, a government source told AFP, while the internationally-respected Draghi will stay on as head of government until then.

Dissolving parliament was always a last resort, Mattarella said, but in this case a lack of consensus among the parties that had made up Draghi’s national unity government made it “inevitable”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Draghi steps down after government implodes

Italy was facing challenges, however, that could not be put on the backburner while the parties campaigned, he said.

There could be no “pauses in the essential interventions to combat the effects of the economic and social crisis, and in particular the rise in inflation”.

Based on current polls, a rightist alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party would comfortably win a snap vote.

“No more excuses”, tweeted Meloni, 45, who vociferously led the opposition throughout Draghi’s term and has long called for fresh elections.

On Wednesday, he attempted to save the government, urging his squabbling coalition to put aside their grievances for the sake of the country.

But three parties – Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia, Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League and the populist Five Star Movement – said it was no longer possible for them to work together.

The stunned centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which had supported Draghi, said its hopes were now pinned on Italians being “wiser than their MPs”.

Draghi’s downfall comes despite recent polls suggesting most Italians wanted him to stay at the helm until the scheduled general election next May.

TIMELINE: What happens next in Italy’s government crisis?

Members of Italy’s government applaud Mario Draghi upon his arrival to announce his resignation to parliament on July 21st, 2022. Photo by FABIO FRUSTACI / AFP

The Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, is leading in the polls, with 23.9 percent of voter intentions, according to a SWG survey held three days before Draghi’s resignation.

To win a majority it would need the support of the League (polling at 14 percent) and Forza Italia (7.4 percent).

Anxious investors were watching closely as the coalition imploded. Concerns rose that a government collapse would worsen social ills in a period of rampant inflation, delay the budget, threaten EU post-pandemic recovery funds and send jittery markets into a tailspin.
Should a Brothers of Italy-led coalition win, it “would offer a much more disruptive scenario for Italy and the EU”, wrote Luigi Scazzieri, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.

Research consultancy Capital Economics said, however, there were “powerful fiscal and monetary incentives” for the next government to implement the reforms demanded by the European Union, or risk missing out on post-pandemic recovery funds worth billions of euros.