Italy ‘rediscovering normality’ thanks to high Covid vaccination rate, official says

Italy has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, authorities said, as they announced a new goal of fully immunising 90 percent of the population.

Italy has set a further vaccination goal as the country continues to outstrip the European average.
Italy has set a further vaccination goal as the country continues to outstrip the European average. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The government set the new target after reaching its original goal of vaccinating 80 percent of the eligible population earlier this month, just over a week behind its deadline date.

“We are rediscovering normality thanks to the effect of an unprecedented vaccination campaign,” said Italy’s special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, at a national security and justice event on Wednesday.

Italy has fully vaccinated more than 82 percent of the population aged over 12, while some 86 percent have had at least one dose, according to the latest government figures.

The data for vaccinations show that Italy is ahead of the European average, including countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Only Spain has a higher rate of vaccination coverage, data shows.

The table from Our World in Data shows the ranking of Italy against the European average. This comparison is based on the vaccinated share of the total population (not only the eligible population), which is why the percentages are slightly lower than those given by the health ministry.

Meanwhile an expected rise in new cases after students returned to class in September – the so-called ‘school effect’ – has not materialised in Italy, according to evidence-based medicine foundation Gimbe.

This is “thanks to the vaccination of students and school staff, and the progressive vaccination coverage of the general population,” stated Renata Gili, head of Gimbe Research on Health Services.

As more than 1.2 million students still haven’t received a first dose, some outbreaks show that Italy still needs to keep its guard up to prevent the spread in classrooms, Gimbe stated in its latest report released on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Which Italian regions have the highest Covid vaccination rates?

Out of Italy’s 21 regions, Sardinia has vaccinated the most students while Veneto is at the top of the table for the number of doses administered to school staff. The autonomous province of Bolzano lags behind in both cases.

Figures show that 67.2 percent of the population aged 12-19 years has completed the vaccination cycle, making up just over 3 million people in this age group.

AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru

The trend of vaccination coverage with at least one dose in the 12-19 age group has slowed down since September, after a sharp increase in early June, according to Gimbe.

91.2 percent of school staff have now completed the vaccination cycle and 3 percent – almost 46,000 personnel have received the first dose of vaccine, according to the figures.

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

There are over 90,000 school staff (5.8 percent of the total) who have still not yet received a single dose.

Italy is set to offer everyone a third dose of an anti-Covid vaccine from January, health officials said.

Italy is already administering booster shots to patients with fragile immune systems and serious medical conditions, people aged over 60 and health workers.

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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.