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VACCINATION

‘We need ammunition’: Jabs for over-60s postponed as Italian regions run out of vaccine doses

From Trento to Puglia, Italian regional health services are reporting shortages in the supply of vaccines which mean first jabs have been delayed.

'We need ammunition': Jabs for over-60s postponed as Italian regions run out of vaccine doses
Photo: Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP

Many of those who were scheduled to get their first Covid jab in Italy this week turned up for appointments to find their vaccination centre had run out of doses, or was closed without explanation.

Several readers in the southern region of Puglia said their appointments for a first jab had been postponed – or their vaccination centre was closed when they arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I took my sister to Ceglia Messapica in Brindisi for her vaccination, and we arrived to find the place locked up. No one there, and many people outside very upset. A small notice on the locked gates saying ‘no vaccine’,” reader John Priestley said.

Another reader in the Bari province said she had turned up at her vaccination centre to find it open, but with no vaccine doses available.

“The staff member was very apologetic, but they had run out of AstraZeneca, which is what I was to have as I am in the over-60s age group,” she said. “They said I will hear from the ASL (local health authority) about a new appointment.”

Local newspapers reported that vaccines for the 60-69 age group were on pause in the Puglia region as its stocks of the AstraZeneca vaccine are running low.

“We have very few doses. If we had the doses we would have already finished vaccinating everyone in Puglia,” the region’s governor Michele Emiliano stated on Tuesday.

Similar problems have been reported from north to south, with eight regions now running low on vaccine doses.

Overall, of the 20 million doses distributed within Italy so far, 89% have now been used.

In Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Puglia and Veneto, the figure is over 90% on Tuesday, according to analysis by newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Residents also reported that other regions including Tuscany suspending new appointments for older age groups.

Just 590,000 doses of Pfizer remain in Italy, and the autonomous province of Trento has none left at all.

There are 724,000 AstraZeneca shots – Puglia has the fewest, with around 7,000 doses left in stock in the region on Tuesday.

AstraZeneca has been recommended for use on over-60s only in Italy, as the government this month focused efforts on vaccinating older age groups.

Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

The governor of Piedmont said the region is also “running out” of doses.

“Our supplies are running low again. We’re waiting for deliveries, because Piedmont is ready to vaccinate 40,000 people a day. We need ammunition,” governor Alberto Cirio told Il Sole 24 ore.

Another delay to the country’s vaccine rollout is now likely as appointments for first jabs are being postponed by one or two weeks in many parts of the country.

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More deliveries are expected to reach regions from Wednesday. However, Veneto regional governor Luza Zaia complained that the region gets through “a week’s supply in five days”.

The Italian government’s Covid emergency commissioner, General Francesco Figliuolo, stated during his visit to the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia on Tuesday that vaccine doses are now arriving “in sufficient quantities”.

“On April 29th, two million doses will arrive which will be usable between April 30th and May 1st,” he said.

He added that up to 2.7 million more doses would then arrive by early May.

“I just spoke to the president of AstraZeneca who confirmed these numbers, but did not give me delivery dates from May 8th onwards,” he said.

Figliuolo said the country’s vaccination programme will speed up “significantly” with more deliveries in May, after missing its target of having half a million doses administered daily before the end of April.

Italy has given a total of 18.2 million shots so far and has 5.3 million people fully vaccinated, official figures show.

The chart below shows the total number of doses administered, adding up both first and second jabs.

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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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