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VACCINE

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-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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