350,000 doses in a day: Italy hits a record number of Covid-19 vaccinations

Italian authorities issued the highest number of vaccinations for a single day on Friday, marking a new peak in vaccinating the country against Covid-19 since the rollout began.

350,000 doses in a day: Italy hits a record number of Covid-19 vaccinations
A medical worker administrates a dose of a Comirnaty Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine to a woman at a new vaccination hub in Lingotto Fiere Torino Pavilion in Turin. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

347,279 vaccine shots were issued on Friday, according to the Emergency Commissioner’s Office. This now adds up to a total of 10 million people in Italy, who have received at least one shot of a vaccine, according to official government figures.

Of those, 4.23 million have been fully vaccinated with a second dose.

The latest tallies are welcome news for a country that has faced setbacks and missed targets in the vaccination rollout. Italy is still lagging behind the European Union, with the number of people receiving one dose amounting to 16.9% of the population.

READ ALSO: How fast is Italy vaccinating its population compared to other European countries?

More than three-quarters of the over-80s have received their first dose of vaccine, standing at 76.09%. Those who have had the booster and therefore fully immunised comes to just under half, at 45.19%. Three quarters of healthcare workers and employees in nursing homes have also been fully vaccinated with two shots.

Among those aged 70-79, 30.14% have received the first dose – and only 3.4% have received the booster shot. As many as 4.2 million people in this age group are still waiting for their first dose.

Other European countries are picking up pace in their vaccination rollouts, with Germany setting a new record of 656,000 doses on Wednesday and making strides again the next day, with a further 738,501 doses.

Italy currently sits behind Germany and France in the vaccination programme, but is just ahead of Spain, according to the latest Our World in Data figures.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Bureaucratic barriers must not stop Italy vaccinating its foreign residents

The majority of vaccinations administered in Italy come from manufacturer Pfizer/BioNTech, whereas health fears have impeded the rollout of the AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

READ ALSO: IN CHARTS: Who is Italy vaccinating fastest?

Find information about how to register for vaccination in your region of Italy here

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Q&A: What you need to know about Italy’s West Nile virus outbreak

As Italy records a surge in cases of West Nile fever, we look at what the disease is and where in the country it's spreading.

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy's West Nile virus outbreak

Mosquitos are unfortunately one downside of summer in Italy. But as well as being a nuisance, they may also pose a health risk in the country – one of the few in Europe to record cases of West Nile virus (WNV)

READ ALSO: Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Last week Italy recorded 50 more cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the total number of infections to 144 according to the latest report from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

This marked a 53-percent increase in cases against the previous week, while ten people have died so far.

As the number of infections continues to rise, here are the answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and the outbreak in Italy.

What is it?

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that can cause West Nile fever in humans.

It’s a member of the Flavivirus family together with other endemic viruses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses.

The virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda’s West Nile district but has since spread to many other parts of the world, to the point that it is now considered indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes of the Culex species, which infect humans and other mammals through their bite, according to Italy’s health ministry.

There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission is possible.

Where are cases being reported in Italy?

Infections have been largely concentrated in the north of the country, especially in the Veneto region, where six people have now died of the disease. Other deaths were recorded in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The city of Padua, which is located in Veneto’s mainland, around 35 kilometres away from the Adriatic coast, is currently regarded as the hotspot of the virus. 

It isn’t yet clear why Veneto has been the worst-hit region so far, but experts fear that its marshy lowlands might be the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

A mosquito of the Culex species viewed under a microscope.

Mosquitoes of the Culex species, a specimen of which is pictured above, are responsible for transmitting the West Nile Virus to humans and other mammals. Photo by Jon CHERRY Getty Images / AFP

How severe is the outbreak in Italy?

West Nile virus is not new to Italy. However, this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

National infection levels remain relatively low but the country has by far the largest number of cases in Europe.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 94 out of 120 recorded cases were in Italy.

Greece had 23 reported cases. Romania and Slovakia had two and one respectively. 

Italy is the only European country that has reported fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS), around 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms whatsoever.

In symptomatic cases, however, symptoms generally resemble those of a common flu and include fever, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

In healthy people, the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat, and symptoms generally last only a few days.

According to the data currently available, around one in 150 infected people can show symptoms as serious as partial vision loss, convulsions and paralysis. 

In very rare cases (around 0.1 percent, or one in 1000) the disease can cause brain infections (encephalitis or meningitis) which may eventually be fatal.

Brazilian biologists handle mosquito larvae.

There is currently no vaccine against West Nile disease, though several are being tested. Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine against West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

There is also no specific treatment for the disease caused by the virus.

Patients showing the more serious symptoms are usually admitted to hospital and treated with IV fluids and assisted ventilation.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Seeing as there is currently no vaccine against the virus, the best way to protect oneself is by reducing exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Italian health authorities have listed a number of official recommendations to help residents avoid mosquito bites. These include: 

  • Use repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when being outdoors and especially during ​​mosquitoes’ peak activity times, i.e. sunrise and sunset
  • Use mosquito nets on your windows or sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and keep the windows closed
  • Make sure there are no pools of stagnant water around your house

See more information about West Nile virus in Italy on the health ministry’s website.