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HEALTH

Italy hits target of half a million Covid-19 jabs in one day

Italy on Thursday hit its delayed target of giving half a million jabs in one day by the end of April, Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced.

Italy hits target of half a million Covid-19 jabs in one day
A nurse talks with Giovanni, 99, while administering a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of an at-home vaccination campaign in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

“Yesterday in Italy over 500,000 vaccine doses were administered,” Speranza said in social media posts on Friday.

“I thank the women and men of the national health service and all the institutions for a great team effort.”

Thursday’s vaccination count beat the previous daily record of nearly 350,000 jabs in a day.

The head of Italy’s Department for Civil Protection, Fabrizio Curcio, said last week he did not expect the country to reach the goal of half a million daily shots until early May amid a string of setbacks.

He stressed that, no matter when this figure was reached, “what will matter will be keeping to it over time”.

The target had originally been set for mid-April and was pushed back after Italy’s vaccine rollout was hit repeatedly by supply delays, bureaucratic problems, and cancelled appointments amid a loss of public trust in the AstraZenenca jab.

READ ALSO: ‘It felt like a betrayal’: Foreign residents in Italy report problems getting vaccinated

The jump in vaccination numbers on Thursday followed days of cancelled appointments and vaccine centre closures earlier this week as many regions started to run out of doses.

Despite the new increase, Italy’s seven-day average of daily inoculations is still only around 360,000, the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper calculated 

New vaccine supplies started to arrive in Italy from Wednesday, and the country’s vaccination rollout will now speed up “significantly” from May, the Italian government’s Covid commissioner Francesco Figliuolo said this week

Figliuolo said on Thursday that he “hoped” Italy would reach the target of having 80% of the adult population vaccinated “by the end of September”. 

Italy has given a total of 19.4 million shots as of Friday afternoon, and has 5.7 million people fully vaccinated, official figures show.

Other European countries are also now picking up pace in their vaccination rollouts, with Germany setting a new European record of one million doses on Thursday.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Italy’s vaccination efforts are overall slightly behind those of other large European countries.

Just under 25 percent of the Italian population has so far received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 28.1 percent in Germany, 26.7 percent in France and 27.6 percent in Spain.

IN CHARTS: Who is Italy vaccinating fastest?

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POLITICS

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire for questioning Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire for questioning Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a trained pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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