Italy opens Covid vaccinations to all age groups from Thursday

Italy’s local health authorities got the green light to open up coronavirus vaccination appointments to everyone over 12 years old from Thursday, June 3rd.

Italy opens Covid vaccinations to all age groups from Thursday
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Most Italian health authorities will from Thursday drop the vaccination priority restrictions, which had until now meant the jab was only available to people in older age groups and in higher-risk categories.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that: “From tomorrow everyone will be able to book the anti-Covid vaccine. We can still accelerate our campaign to get through this difficult period”. 

READ ALSO: Do you need a health card to get vaccinated in Italy?

Italy’s coronavirus emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo had stated last week that bookings could be opened up to all over-16s from June 3rd.

This changed to all over-12s after Italy’s medicines regulator AIFA on Tuesday approved the Pfizer jab for use on 12-15 year olds.

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 local health authorities manage the vaccination rollout. This means that while the government has given regions the go-ahead to allow everyone over 12 to book their jab from Thursday, some parts of the country aren’t yet ready to do so.

Some regional health authorities are still focusing on vaccinating over-40s, while others had already last week opened up the programme to high schoolers about to graduate, or everyone over 18.

READ ALSO: Which Italian regions are offering Covid vaccine appointments to all from Thursday?

Liguria Governor Giovanni Toti, for example, told Rai on Thursday that his region does not have enough Pfizer doses at the moment to start taking bookings for under-16s.

Another 2.5 million vaccine doses are arriving this week in Italy in addition to the 3.5 million already available, Rai reports.

About 370,000 Johnson & Johnson doses are expected to be delivered on Thursday as well as 1.7 million shots of Astrazeneca, followed on Friday by some 400,000 doses of Moderna.  

Italy has so far administered more than 35 million vaccine doses – 88.7% of the total delivered, which is almost 40 million, according to the emergency commission.

12.2 million people have been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, or 22.6% of the population. 

Some 3.3 million over-60s have still not been vaccinated in Italy, warned the GIMBE evidence-based medicine foundation in a new report on Thursday.

Italy aims to finish vaccinating its oldest residents by the end of June.

The emergency commissioner has urged regional health services not to forget about those in high-risk groups who have not yet had their shots even as they begin offering vaccines to younger people, with local authorities urged to reach out to elderly residents who still haven’t booked a jab.

While data shows that Italy’s health situation is continuing to improve, health experts warn that the pandemic is not over and that a fourth wave may be on the way.

“Since April, all the parameters tell us that the epidemiological situation is constantly improving, but we cannot forget that this is the result of months of sacrifices, closures and red zones,” Fabrizio Pregliasco, virologist at the State University of Milan, told Rai on Thursday.

“With reopening, there is now the possibility of a tail blow from the virus,” he added.

The fourth wave “is the backlash we are waiting for. The virus will remain with us, but with lesser consequences thanks to vaccines”.

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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.”