Italy to open Covid jab appointments to all over-16s from June 3rd

Everyone aged 16 and over will be able to book a vaccination appointment from next week, according to Italy’s Covid-19 emergency commissioner.

Italy to open Covid jab appointments to all over-16s from June 3rd
Medical workers at a vaccination centre in Turin's Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

“From June 3rd. all regions and provinces will be given the opportunity to open up to all classes following the national plan,” Italy’s Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo stated on Friday during a visit to a vaccination centre in Umbria.

The move is expected to be confirmed in a circular to be released on Friday afternoon.

READ ALSO: Which regions of Italy have opened vaccinations to all over-18s?

Figliuolo said the vaccination campaign will also soon be extended to 12-to-15-year-olds, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) expected to approve jabs for younger adolescents later on Friday and Italy’s regulator to follow suit by “Monday at the latest”.

He added that there would be some 20 million vaccine doses available in June.

So far, Italy has made vaccination appointments available to people based on age and vulnerability, prioritizing older age groups and those considered at high risk because of medical conditions.

Italy’s vaccination campaign is managed by local health authorities, and though they will have the green light to allow all age groups to book appointments from Thursday, June 3rd, rules vary significantly from one part of the country to another.

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

While most regions of Italy are currently still vaccinating older adults and others most at risk, some regional health authorities have already opened reservations to over-30s, high schoolers about to graduate, or even everyone over 18.

Most regions have now opened up bookings to people over 40 – though many people have reported waiting times of several weeks or a month for an appointment.

READ ALSO: How do you get an Italian Covid vaccination certificate?

The past month has seen Italy’s vaccination campaign pick up considerable speed, with more than 3 million doses injected in each of the past three weeks. 

Over 11 million people, around 18 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated so far, while around the same percentage again have had their first dose, official data shows.

While welcoming the recent acceleration, Figliuolo cautioned this week that regions should continue to focus on high-risk groups: “We mustn’t ease off vulnerable categories and the elderly, who we will finish [vaccinating] at the end of June,” he said.

While he added that health authorities may need to do more to get vulnerable people to attend vaccination appointments, the government has not stated whether it will take steps to remove bureaucratic barriers that have prevented many eligible foreign residents from being vaccinated in Italy.

Many of The Local’s readers who do not have an Italian national health card (tessera sanitaria) have been unable to register for an appointment using online booking systems.

Anyone facing this problem is advised to contact their local health authority (ASL) or call their regional vaccination hotline, rather than trying to register online, and to look into enrolling in Italy’s public health system (find a guide here). 

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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.”