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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy extends third doses of Covid vaccine to over-80s and care homes

Italy has begun administering Covid booster shots to the next priority groups based on those who are the most vulnerable, the health ministry has confirmed.

Italy extends third doses of Covid vaccine to over-80s and care homes
Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP

People aged 80 years and over and staff and guests of residential care facilities for the elderly are the latest groups to receive their third dose of an anti-Covid-19 vaccine, as laid down in the government’s latest circular.

“Let’s immediately give more protection to the most fragile and to those who work in healthcare facilities,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters on Monday.

Health professionals and healthcare workers aged 60 years and over or with pre-existing diseases that make them vulnerable to severe Covid-19 will be targeted “at a later date”, stipulated the document.

READ ALSO: Almost all hospitalised Covid-19 patients in Italy are unvaccinated, says health watchdog

This group includes all those who “carry out their activities in public and private health, social and healthcare and social assistance structures, in pharmacies and professional practices,” the circular stated.

The strategy of administering a booster dose may also extend further to those who are highly fragile due to pre-existing illnesses, although for now this is “subject to the opinion of the regulatory agencies”, the circular clarified.

The third dose will be an mRNA vaccine, according to the indications from Italy’s Medicines Agency Aifa (L’Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco) – in Italy, the two authorised vaccines of this type are Comirnaty by BioNTech/Pfizer and Spikevax by Moderna.

This applies “regardless of the vaccine used for the primary cycle (Comirnaty, Spikevax, Vaxzevria or Janssen),” the circular read.

A medical worker fills a syringe with a dose of a Comirnaty Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine. (Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP)

Italian authorities specified that a third vaccine dose “should be administered at least 6 months after completion of the primary vaccine cycle”.

For immunosuppressed people, the third vaccine can be administered 28 days after the second dose – and should be given as soon as possible after that point, according to the health ministry’s guidance.

Which groups of the population may next be able to access a booster shot will be “decided on the basis of the acquisition of new scientific evidence and epidemiological trends,” the circular clarified.

EXPLAINED: Who can access a third dose of the Covid vaccine in Italy?

The Italian government began rolling out a third dose of Covid vaccines last week, aimed at some 3 million vulnerable members of society such as those with compromised immune systems.

Within the first day, the authorities had administered more than 6,000 booster shots to those most at risk of the disease.

Italy has now issued some 53,000 third doses since this phase of the vaccination rollout began, according to the latest government figures on Tuesday.

The decision to begin a third dose rollout came amid the government’s debate on whether to make Covid vaccinations obligatory as the country strives to meet its immunisation targets this month.

As the end of September approaches, Italy looks on track to meet its target of immunising 80 percent of the population – just under 78 percent of the entire population over 12 years old have now completed their vaccination cycle, making up some 42 million people.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

Italy's Covid-19 vaccination campaign prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country's death toll by almost half, the national health institute (ISS) said on Wednesday.

Covid vaccines halved Italy's death toll, study finds

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, the ISS said in a press release announcing the publication of its report.

The report covers the period between December 27th, 2020, when the vaccination campaign began, and January 31st of this year, using a methodology initially developed for flu vaccines.

It said 72 percent of deaths avoided from the disease were among over-80s, 19 percent in the 70-79 range, 7 percent in the 60-69 range and 3 percent under 60.

Italy has been one of the countries worst affected by the  pandemic, with more than 160,000 deaths reported since February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.

To date, almost 90 percent of the population over the age of 12 has been fully vaccinated, as well as just over 34 percent of children aged five to eleven.

Italy on Tuesday began offering a fourth dose of an anti-Covid 19 vaccine to those deemed at highest risk from the disease, including over-80s and care home residents.

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