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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy ‘ready to consider’ mandatory Covid jabs as campaign slows

As Italy's vaccination campaign slows down and Covid cases rise, the government has reignited the debate on whether to make vaccines mandatory in order to meet immunisation targets.

Italy is considering achieving its vaccination targets by making vaccines mandatory.
Italy is the first EU country to consider making vaccines mandatory. Photo: Theo Rouby/AFP

“Compulsory vaccination for some categories is absolutely not a taboo and we are ready to consider it,” stated Italy’s deputy Health Secretary Andrea Costa in a TV interview on Tuesday night.

First discussed in September, Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed that he was in favour of mandatory vaccines once EMA and AIFA (the European and Italian drug regulators) have fully authorised their use.

While no other European country is looking at introducing mandatory vaccination for the general public, Italy’s health minister said in September that he would go ahead with the plan “without fear” if deemed necessary to “protect the right to health”.

Now that Italy has set a new target of covering 90 percent of the eligible population, authorities are looking at how to encourage those still unvaccinated to get their shots.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Covid infections almost double in a week as vaccine rate falls

“I believe that 90 percent is a quota that would allow us an endemic management of the pandemic,” Costa said.

By now there is an awareness that we can no longer talk about herd immunity, because even a vaccinated person can contract the virus, but it is much milder.”

“The government’s goal is to ensure that no more citizens die of Covid and no more end up in intensive care. The 90 percent target creates these conditions,” Costa added.

Currently, Italy has vaccinated almost 84 percent of the eligible population over 12 years old, according to the latest government data.

A medical worker fills a syringe with a dose of a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Authorities have so far given no indication as to when vaccinations could actually be made mandatory, or for which groups. However, it would depend on the uptake of immunisations from those who are eligible to be vaccinated but have still chosen not to. 

All healthcare workers in Italy have been subject to a vaccine mandate since a law was passed in April.

“Let’s face these weeks, let’s see what the vaccination data will be, after that we hope that there will be a sense of responsibility that will prevail,” stated Costa.

He spoke of how those who have not been immunised are enjoying more freedom thanks to those who are vaccinated.

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

“I hope that they will become aware that getting vaccinated not only protects their lives, but also allows the country to continue on the path towards a return to normality and economic recovery,” he added.

Should Italy meet its goal of vaccinating 90 percent, there could be changes to the current anti-Covid measures in place.

“I think we can open a new phase and review even the restrictive measures, such as the use of the green pass,” confirmed Costa.

Authorities are currently discussing whether to extend Italy’s green pass system until March amid a significant increase in positive Covid cases.

READ ALSO:

The ‘certificazione verde‘ or green pass as it’s called in Italy shows that the holder has been vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid or has tested negative for the virus within the previous 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type of test taken.

Following its introduction in June, Italy made the Covid health pass a requirement for all employees as well as customers at all public or private sector workplaces from the middle of last month.

Other containment measures such as the possible reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing outdoors “is not a hypothesis” and is not set to return, Costa confirmed.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy opens Covid booster jab bookings from Monday

Regional health services in Italy will open bookings for Covid-19 booster shots to priority groups from Monday as the first deliveries of updated vaccines arrived in the country.

Italy opens Covid booster jab bookings from Monday

“From Monday, September 12th, bookings for the new dual-strain vaccines can begin at the regional level,” said director general of the Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa), Nicola Magrini, at a health ministry press conference on Friday.

Booster shots will not be mandatory and will be offered to priority groups first, health authorities confirmed.

READ ALSO: Italy gives green light to new dual-strain Covid vaccines

“The arrival of the new vaccines should strengthen the conviction of those who have to take the fourth dose because of their age or because they have other conditions,” Magrini said. 

Aifa on Monday approved the Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) dual-strain vaccines, which are effective against both the original strain and the more recent Omicron variants.

Italy will receive 19 million doses of the new vaccines in September, said Franco Locatelli, president of Italy’s Higher Health Council (ISS), at the press conference. 

The updated vaccines have been shown to “generate an antibody response against the Omicron Ba4 and 5 variants, which are the prevalent ones,” he said.

They represent “96 percent of all strains isolated in Italy so far”, he said.

Italian healthcare workers preparing doses of Covid vaccine.

The new dual-strain vaccines will be offered first to at-risk patients, including people aged over 60 and care home residents. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Covid vaccines “have been a triumph of science and medicine” and “have saved millions of lives”, Locatelli added.

Booster jabs are currently recommended for those in higher-risk categories as Italy begins its autumn vaccination campaign.

Priority will be given to those who are still waiting to receive a second booster dose (the so-called fourth dose); therefore over-60s and people with health conditions that make them more susceptible to developing more severe forms of the Covid-19 disease, according to the latest memo from the health ministry.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s Covid vaccination plan this autumn?

Magrini said the priority list also includes “health workers, pregnant women, and residents of facilities for the elderly”.

But “it can also be administered to those under 60 who ask for it,” he added.

Booster shots can only be administered to those who received their last dose at least 120 days (about four months) earlier.

The vaccination campaign is expected to be expanded to all over-12s who have only completed the initial vaccination cycle. For this category, the new booster shot would be their third dose.

How do you book a booster shot?

As in previous vaccination campaigns, each regional health authority will manage their own local vaccination programmes, including their timing.

Bookings should work in much the same way as before, with patients being able to book their appointments through GPs, pharmacies or their ASL’s website where available.

Shots can be administered by family doctors as well as at designated vaccination hubs in more densely populated areas.

The autonomous province of Trentino said it will begin administering jabs immediately from Monday and will allow residents to begin booking jabs from Saturday, September 10th.

Other regions and autonomous provinces are expected to announce their plans in the coming days.

For further information on availability and reservation in your region, see the official vaccination booking website.

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