Italy plans to offer Covid vaccine to over-40s from Monday

Italian regions are now preparing to offer shots to healthy people in their 40s, on instructions from the government's emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo.

Italy plans to offer Covid vaccine to over-40s from Monday
More people will become eligible for vaccination in Italy next week. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Over-40s – anyone born in or before 1981 – are the next cohort able to register for a jab in several more Italian regions and autonomous provinces from Monday May 17th.

In a letter to regional health authorities on Wednesday, Figliuolo has given regions the green light to move down to the next priority group, just a week after instructing them to open appointments to the over-50s.

READ ALSO: Who is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in your region of Italy?

But some regions are moving faster – or slower – than this. While Italy’s national vaccination plan sets priority groups, each of Italy’s 20 regions have their own timetable, according to the population and doses available.

The commissioner has stressed it’s necessary to continue prioritising those who are fragile or over 60 even as booking opens to younger adults, who may still face a wait of several weeks before they actually get their jab. 

Some regions have outpaced the national programme: Veneto, Puglia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Basilicata and the province of Bolzano had already decided to start offering appointments to over-40s from next week.

Lazio is getting an even bigger head-start by holding an ‘Open Day’ this weekend, administering AstraZeneca jabs to the over-40s across 21 vaccination centres on Saturday and Sunday.

Piedmont will start registering the 45-49 age group from Monday. Meanwhile Lombardy is concentrating on the over-50s until May 20th.

Emilia-Romagna and Liguria are also not open for the over-40s group from Monday, as they are offering appointments to people aged 55 and over, to be followed by people in their early 50s later this month.

READ ALSO: Where to register for a Covid-19 vaccine in your region of Italy

Until now, under-50s have only been eligible for a jab if they have health problems or disabilities, live with or care for someone who does, or work in key sectors such as health care or education.

Also from Monday, San Marino, an independent micro-state in northern Italy, announced it’s making available the Russian Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine to tourists for 50 euros – though the shot hasn’t been approved by the EU’s drug regulator and therefore won’t be valid for travel within the Italy or the rest of the bloc.

Italy recently hit its target of administering half a million jabs in one day, and the seven-day average daily number of vaccinations given in the country is now around 470,000 – up from 444,000 the week before, the latest figures show.

To check the vaccination status of your region, check here.

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Italian monkeypox cases rise to seven

Five infections have now been confirmed in Rome, as well as one in Tuscany and one in Lombardy, Italian health authorities said.

Italian monkeypox cases rise to seven

The total number Italian monkeypox cases rose to seven on Wednesday as a new case was reported by the Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases in Rome.

Spallanzani is treating six cases: five found in Lazio and one in Tuscany, while the Sacco Hospital in Milan is treating one patient from the Lombardy region.

“There is no alarm, but the infection surveillance system is at a state of maximum attention,” Lazio’s regional health councillor Alessio D’Amato told the Ansa news agency.

Researchers at Spallanzani said the new cases are thought to be “part of a pan-European cluster” linked to cases in the Canary Islands, Ansa reported.

The first Italian case of monkey smallpox, or monkeypox, was also found in a man who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, doctors said last Thursday.

More than 250 monkeypox cases have now been reported in at least 16 countries where the virus isn’t endemic, almost all in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.

They are mostly in Spain, the UK and Portugal, with single-digit cases in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as Italy.

READ ALSO: What is Spain doing to deal with rising monkeypox cases?

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Monkeypox is known to spread via close contact with an animal or human with the virus. It can be transmitted via bodily fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets or through contaminated materials, such as bedding.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than those of smallpox: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. 

Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The unprecedented outbreak of the monkeypox virus has put the international community on alert.

On Monday, the European Union urged member states to take steps to ensure positive cases, close contacts, and even pets be quarantined as this is a zoonotic virus (a virus that spreads from animals to humans).