Italy approves use of Pfizer Covid vaccine on 12-15 year olds

Everyone aged between 12-15 will be able to get the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, following authorisation by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA).

Italy approves use of Pfizer Covid vaccine on 12-15 year olds

Italy has got the green light to immunise younger adolescents against Covid, following a decision by the Technical and Scientific Committee (CTS) at a meeting on Monday, stated AIFA.

The move came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave the go-ahead on Friday, which stated that the Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNtech) vaccine is safe for use on younger people: “The available data demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in this age group”, added AIFA.

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

The news came shortly after the announcement that Italy’s regional health services could open up vaccination appointments to everyone aged over 16 from June 3rd.

Italy’s Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo stated on Friday during a visit to a vaccination centre in Umbria that this would be bolstered by a further 20 million doses being made available in June.

So far, Italy has prioritised vaccinations based on age and vulnerability, giving the jabs first to older age groups and those considered at high risk because of medical conditions.

The country’s health campaign differs from area to area as the local health authority manages the vaccination campaign. This means that while everyone over 16 can book their jab from Thursday, some parts of the country simply aren’t ready for this age bracket yet.

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

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

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP)

People over 40 are the group mostly being vaccinated at the moment, but many have reported waiting times of several weeks or a month for an appointment.

The national vaccination campaign is now accelerating with a total of just under 35 million shots administered and over a fifth of the population – 12 million people – now fully vaccinated, latest figures show.

While welcoming the news, Figliuolo warned that each region needs to keep focussing on those who need the shots the most: “We mustn’t ease off vulnerable categories and the elderly, who we will finish [vaccinating] at the end of June,” he said.

READ ALSO: Can I use a foreign vaccination certificate to access Italy’s health passport?

There are still bureaucratic obstacles stopping some people in Italy being able to access their vaccination, such as eligible foreign residents struggling to book an appointment.

Many of The Local’s readers who do not have an Italian national health card (tessera sanitaria) have been unable to register for a slot 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. Here’s how to enrol in Italy’s public health system.

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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.”