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-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].”