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HEALTH

Italian PM Draghi changes Covid vaccines for second dose

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has had a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine different from his first, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Italian PM Draghi changes Covid vaccines for second dose
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Photo: Francisco Seco/POOL/AFP

The 73-year-old had previously had an AstraZeneca vaccine but switched to the Pfizer-BioNTech jab for his second dose.

Draghi’s government earlier this month changed its advice on vaccines, saying those under the age of 60 should no longer have the AstraZeneca jab due to fears over rare blood clots.

Last week, Draghi said he would switch from AstraZeneca despite being over 60 after being told his first dose had given a “low antibody response”.

READ ALSO: Can you refuse to ‘mix and match’ Covid-19 vaccines in Italy?

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she had also received a Moderna vaccine after getting AstraZeneca for her first dose.

The recommendation for those who have already had one AstraZeneca dose to switch to another vaccine sparked a major debate in Italy over whether such a mix-and-match approach was safe, despite this already being common practice in many other European countries.

In an interview with the La Stampa newspaper on June 14th, Health Minister Roberto Speranza stressed that mixing vaccinations was known to be safe and effective, saying: “So-called ‘vaccination crossing’ is something Germany has been doing for two months, which France and Spain have also been doing for some time.”

READ ALSO: Is Italy really going to offer vaccines to tourists this summer?

Several other EU countries including Sweden, Norway and Austria are also allowing people to have an mRNA shot for their second dose if they were first vaccinated with AstraZeneca, after those countries also changed their advice on the jab.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has stressed that the AstraZeneca jab remains approved for all adults, saying the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

Italy has extended the availability of a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot as infection rates surge across the country.

Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

The Italian health ministry announced that fourth Covid vaccine doses, or second booster shots, will soon be available to all residents aged 60 and over, as national medicines regulator Aifa gave the green light on Monday.

Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday that doses could be administered to this age group “immediately”, as Italy “moves in line” with recommendations from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“In the coming hours, immediately, already today, we will adapt our guidelines, our circulars and our indications. We will immediately open up administration in our regions.

“We mustn’t think that the battle against Covid is won. It is still ongoing and we must keep the level of caution high,” he said.

The health ministry confirmed in an update on its website that second booster doses were now recommended to “all persons aged 60 years or older, provided there has been an interval of at least 120 days since the first booster dose or the last post-booster infection (date of positive diagnostic test)”.

READ ALSO: Fourth jabs and isolation: Italy’s plan to control Covid cases this summer

The availability of fourth doses will vary by region, as each local health authority is responsible for managing the timing of its own vaccination campaign.

Several regions, including Lazio (around Rome) and Lombardy (around Milan), said on Monday that they would allow over-60s to book their fourth jabs within the coming days.

A fourth dose can be booked as usual, via pharmacies or family doctors, and via regional booking websites where available. (Find more information in a separate article here.)

Speranza didn’t say when second booster shots may be rolled out to all age groups, stating only that “a new vaccination campaign” is set to begin in September.

Health authorities have previously said they are not planning to make a fourth dose mandatory, though an annual “top-up” shot is likely to be offered.

Until now, only over-80s, care home residents, and clinically vulnerable patients have been eligible for a fourth shot in Italy.

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

But health experts are also urging the government to speed up the administration of fourth jabs to these vulnerable groups: uptake remains far lower than hoped so far, with 78 percent of over-80s not getting theirs yet.

With the coronavirus infection rate now at its highest level since February, and the number of hospitalisations expected to keep rising in the coming weeks, the health ministry has not said whether it plans to bring back any recently-scrapped health measures.

For now, the government’s strategy appears to be focused on maintaining the relatively high rate of vaccination coverage in Italy: 90 percent of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated with at least two doses, official figures show.

Find out more about booking a booster shot in Italy in a separate article here. See the government’s ‘prenotazione vaccino‘ (vaccine booking) website for links to regional authorities’ appointment reservation platforms.

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