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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy to approve Covid boosters five months after first vaccine cycle

Italy is planning to make Covid-19 vaccine boosters available a month earlier to eligible groups, the country's health minister has confirmed.

Italy plans to make booster shots available after five months from the first vaccine cycle.
Italy plans to make booster shots available after five months from the first vaccine cycle. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

The administration of booster shots “will be possible five months after the completion of the first cycle,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced on Twitter on Monday evening.

He said Italy’s medicines agency AIFA was poised to give the green light to plans to bring boosters forward by a month.

KEY POINTS: Italy’s new plans to contain the Covid fourth wave

Currently, booster shots can be given to those in eligible groups six months after completion of the initial vaccination cycle.

Speranza said the booster “is crucial to better protect us and those around us”.

The health ministry is set to publish a circular detailing the plans on Tuesday, with the rule change expected to come into force later this week.

A copy of the circular seen by national broadcaster Rai reportedly stated that: “The minimum interval foreseen for the administration of the booster dose with an m-RNA vaccine, to the categories for which it is already recommended (including all subjects vaccinated with a single dose of the Janssen (J&J) vaccine), is updated to five months (150 days) from the completion of the primary vaccination course, regardless of the vaccine previously used.”

Photo: Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

AIFA reportedly advised that a third booster shot provides “maximum precaution”, considering that viral circulation has increased and also taking into account the resurgence of infection throughout Europe and in neighbouring countries such as Austria.

Italy’s Technical and Scientific Committee (CTS), the group of experts advising the government on health measures, also backed the proposal, stating that it is “appropriate” to introduce the booster dose starting from five months after completion of the primary vaccination cycle.

EXPLAINED:

Booster shots are already being administered to some groups in Italy, with 40-59 year-olds the latest category given access to a third dose from Monday.

The health ministry brought forward the administration of booster doses to more age groups as the latest official health data on Friday again showed that infection and hospitalisation rates continue to rise.

Italy is expected to start rolling out booster shots for the rest of the population from January 2022.

Speranza’s latest announcement came as ministers began talks on Monday night on a raft of new restrictions under a new government decree expected by Friday.

Speranza is reported to have said in a cabinet meeting on Monday that “these are delicate hours” and “further choices need to be made in the interest of the country”.

Italy’s health authorities have so far relied heavily on the vaccination campaign and widespread use of the ‘green pass’ health certificate to reduce the spread of the virus and keep hospitalisations down.

New measures currently being planned by the health authorities include the rollout of mandatory third doses for health workers, as well as a cut to the validity of green passes for the vaccinated from 12 to nine months.

READ ALSO: Italian government begins talks on Covid ‘super green pass’

Those working in healthcare have been subject to a vaccine mandate since April, applicable to anyone working in public or private social health positions, including in pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Italy’s deputy health minister Andrea Costa said making boosters mandatory for those working in healthcare “is a logical and common-sense move”.

Commenting on the vaccination campaign overall, he said it “has enabled us to contain the impact of this pandemic wave on health infrastructure.”

The government is also considering the possibility of extending the obligation to other groups, such as teachers, police officers and all front office personnel in direct contact with the public.

Almost 85 percent of Italy’s eligible population over 12 years old has now completed the first vaccination cycle, according to the latest figures.

Almost 3.5 million booster shots have been administered in Italy so far.

Member comments

  1. In July I had my second vaccination and now in November tested positive from a PCR test, how long do I have to wait before receiving the booster? My local doctor says 6 months from the negative test is that correct?

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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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