Italy reaches target of fully vaccinating 80 percent of all over-12s

Italy has reached its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of the eligible population against Covid-19, government data shows, amid a slump in bookings for first jabs.

A medical worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a hub within Turin's Museum of Contemporary Art.
Italy is now urging more people to get a second Covid booster shot as the infection rate rises. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

The target, set for September 30th, was reached on October 9th as the country’s vaccination campaign has slowed significantly in recent weeks.

Some 43.2 million people out of a total population of around 60 million had completed their vaccination cycle as of October 10th, the government’s vaccination figures show.

Italy’s special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, set the 80 percent target back in March and it was hoped Italy would hit the mark by the end of September.

That target was missed after the number of first doses booked dropped off sharply during summer and failed to rise again in September.

READ ALSO: Italy’s vaccination campaign slows as ‘green pass effect’ fails to materialise

The number of vaccines administered in Italy continues to drop, official data shows, despite the government attempting to boost the final stages of the campaign by extending its health certificate or ‘green pass’ requirement to all workplaces.

In a push to make it over the finish line in September, the government passed a decree making it obligatory for all employees to produce a health certificate or ‘green pass’ to enter the workplace from October 15th.

“Today we have reached an important percentage of vaccinated people, perhaps even unimaginable until a few months ago. However, we must also take into account that today 8.4 million Italians over 12 have not even had one dose, among them are 4-5 million people of working age,” Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe foundation for edvidence-based medicine, told Radio Cusano Campus on Monday morning.

Authorities hoped that the requirement to show a green pass – which proves that the holder has received at least one dose of the vaccine, has recovered from Covid in the past six months, or has recently tested negative for the virus – would encourage more people to get the vaccine.

But the hoped-for ‘green pass effect’ failed to materialise, as data showed last week that the rate of new vaccines administered declined by 22.2 percent in the week between September 27th and October 3rd.

EXPLAINED: How Italy will enforce the new ‘green pass’ rules in all workplaces

Thousands of people gather in the Piazza Del Popolo to protest an expansion of Italy's 'green pass' system.

Thousands of people protested against vaccines and Italy’s green pass extension in central Rome on Saturday. Photo: Tiziana FABI/AFP

The current sluggish vaccine uptake rate stands in stark contrast to the rush seen in late July, when prime minister Mario Draghi first announced the introduction of the green pass as a requirement for entering many leisure facilities.

With the majority of the population now inoculated against the virus, those who remain unvaccinated are likely to be the most staunch holdouts, with the greatest level of resistance to the government’s efforts.

An estimated ten thousand people demonstrated in Rome on Saturday against vaccines and the green pass requirement, with some protesters later clashing with police.

It’s not known if the government will now raise the vaccination target, with advisors to the Italian authorities saying the 80% threshold is insufficient, Reuters reports.

The figure is “not just a symbolic threshold”, Guido Rasi, an advisor to Figliuolo and former director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), told Reuters.

“It’s a level that, calculations show, correlates with a significant reduction in the circulation of the virus and a drastic cut in hospital admissions.”

The Italian government has not ruled out the possibility of introducing a vaccination mandate if coverage is deemed insufficient.

In September, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the government was considering plans to introduce a mandate and would proceed “without fear” if necessary “in the defence of the right to health and the need to avoid new deprivations of freedom”.

The government has said vaccines and the green pass system are the only alternative to reinstating restrictions should infection rates rise again.

Italy’s coronavirus infection rate currently remains relatively low and stable, with 2.278 cases and 27 deaths reported on Sunday, October 10th.

The number of hospitalisations due to Covid-19 in Italy has been falling steadily since early summer.

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Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.