Third doses and mandatory jabs: What’s next for Italy’s Covid vaccination campaign?

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday said the government is considering whether to make Covid vaccinations obligatory in the final push to meet its immunisation targets this month.

Third doses and mandatory jabs: What's next for Italy's Covid vaccination campaign?
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Answering a question at a press conference, Draghi confirmed that he was in favour of mandatory vaccines and that there are plans to administer third doses of Covid-19 vaccines for some groups.

He was asked if he thinks mandatory vaccination “can be introduced” once EMA and AIFA (the European and Italian drug regulators) have given full authorization for the use of Covid-19 vaccines, and whether the government thinks third doses will be needed.

Draghi simply responded “Yes to both questions.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza added: “The vaccination obligation in our country is already in place for healthcare personnel, so in reality it already applies to part of our society”. 

READ ALSO: Why September will be the ‘decisive’ month for Italy’s Covid vaccination campaign

He said expanding the legal obligation to vaccinate “is a possibility that remains at the disposal of our institutions, government, and Parliament.”

“The hypothesis is that it could be decided after the final approvals from the drug agencies, Ema and Aifa, which at the moment have given the green light for emergency use of the vaccines.”

Speranza also said that the administration of third vaccine doses “will begin in September” starting with “people who have a very fragile immune response”.

Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

Until now, the Italian government has said very little on the topic of potentially making the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all – although ministers had never ruled out the possibility.

Italy passed a law in April obliging anyone working in public or private social health positions, including in pharmacies and doctors’ offices, to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or be suspended without pay, unless their employer can reassign them to a non-public facing position.

On September 1st, a separate requirement was introduced for all school staff to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result under the ‘green pass’ health certificate scheme.

The government has also been considering a further expansion which would make the pass mandatory for employees at workplaces deemed essential, including public offices and supermarkets.

READ ALSO: How Italy has tightened the ’green pass’ rules in September

Changes could potentially be announced in the coming weeks, as Italy’s health authorities aim to have 80 percent of the population over the age of 12 vaccinated by the end of September.

Several government ministers have reportedly been pushing for the legal vaccination requirement to be extended to more groups, and potentially to the general public, amid concerns that the country may not be able to reach the stated target this month.

However at the press conference Draghi insisted the vaccination campaign is “proceeding swiftly”.

Just over 70 percent of eligible people in Italy have had at least one dose while 63 percent are now fully vaccinated.

For more information about the current coronavirus situation and health measures in Italy please see the official health ministry website (in English).

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.