Reader question: Can tourists in Italy get a Covid-19 booster vaccine?

As Italy’s Covid-19 booster shot campaign gathers pace, we answer a question we’ve received from readers who want to get their first two doses or booster shot while visiting Italy. 

Reader question: Can tourists in Italy get a Covid-19 booster vaccine?
Italy has one of Europe's highest vaccination rates - but there are some restrictions on who can access a jab. Photo: Tiziana FABI/AFP

With almost 85 percent of Italy’s eligible population fully vaccinated and hundreds of thousands of doses in storage, it would be easy to think that Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots would be readily available in the country for everyone, including foreign visitors. 

But this isn’t usually the case. Italy’s vaccination programme so far has been meticulously organised and subject to various strictly-enforced rules and restrictions.

Italy’s Covid vaccination programme is handled entirely by the public health system, meaning that it’s not possible to visit a private health centre and pay to get your vaccine of choice or a booster shot. 

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about visiting Italy this autumn

Italy’s healthcare system operates on a regional rather than a national level, so getting a booster in Tuscany will be a different process to getting one in Lombardy.

Vaccines in Italy were initially only made available to those who are registered with the Italian national health service, and many foreign residents in Italy who only have private health insurance reported problems when trying to register via their regional public health system to get their inoculations.

Most local authorities have since made it easier for those residents who do not have the required paperwork to access a vaccine, often via a pharmacy, and many have also organised vaccine open days or allowed certain age groups to access vaccines without advance booking.

READ ALSO: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

But overall Italy’s vaccination campaign has been meticulously organised, and this is also the case with the booster campaign. So far it appears that people are asked to show a tessera sanitaria (Italian health card) even in regions where advance booking for booster shots is not required.

A rigidly-enforced order of access based on age, occupation and risk group is again being applied.

Italy is set to begin allowing administration of boosters to all over-40s from November 22nd. Over-60s, the immunocompromised and medically vulnerable, health workers, the staff and residents of care homes, and those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are among the categories already eligible to receive a third dose.

Overall, it seems unlikely that tourists can expect to turn up and get a booster vaccine in most places in Italy, although there may be some localised exceptions.

While getting a Covid-19 booster shot won’t be straightforward if you’re a non-resident tourist in Italy, as it’s often up to the discretion of the regional authority, local health centre (ASL) in each area, it might still be worth asking.

For further information about the vaccination programme in each part of Italy, we recommend starting with your regional health authority’s website. Find contact details here.

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Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.