Italy approves Covid vaccine for 5-11 year olds: what you need to know

Italy has approved the use of Covid vaccines in children aged 5-11 and will start administering doses later this month. Here's what we know about how the vaccine rollout for children will work.

Italy will begin vaccinating 5-11 year olds with the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in December.
Italy will begin vaccinating 5-11 year olds with the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in December. Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italy’s medicines agency AIFA approved the use of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in children aged 5-11 on Wednesday evening, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued its approval last Thursday.

“The available data show a high level of efficacy and no warning signals are currently highlighted in terms of safety,” AIFA said in a press release on Wednesday.

In a statement released on its website last week, the EMA said that of 1,305 children who received the vaccine in trials, three developed COVID-19, compared to 16 out of the 663 children who received a placebo – meaning that the vaccine was 90.7% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in this study.

The EMA’s human medicines committee concluded that “the benefits of Comirnaty in children aged 5 to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19,” the agency said.

Here’s what we know so far about how Italy will administer the vaccine in children.

When will 5-11 year olds in Italy be able to get their first vaccine?

Italy’s health authorities are expected to start administering vaccines to 5-11 year olds before Christmas.

Most regions will likely begin vaccinating December 20th and December 25th, according to the news daily Corriere della Sera.

Franco Locatelli, the head of the Italian government’s Scientific Technical Committee, told Sky TG24 that doses for children will be available in Italy from December 23rd. 

When will bookings open for this age group?

It’s anticipated that most regions will open bookings for 5-11 year olds at some point on Thursday.

The booking will need to be made through the website of your local health authority, as health services in Italy are managed on a regional basis.

The Local has compiled a list of links to local health authority websites for each region and autonomous province in Italy here. 

It’s hoped that vaccinating 5-11 year olds will allow schools in Italy to remain open as much as possible.

It’s hoped that vaccinating 5-11 year olds will allow schools in Italy to remain open as much as possible. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

READ ALSO: Italy to impose ‘super green pass’ Covid restrictions on unvaccinated

Where will children be vaccinated?

Vaccines for 5-11 year olds will be administered in the existing vaccination hubs across the country where people aged 12 and up have already received the vaccine.

“We plan to use all available resources where feasible: so we’ll also open up to paediatrician’s offices and pharmacies,” Italy’s undersecretary of health Pierpaolo Sileri is reported to have said.

How will the vaccines be administered to children?

Each child who receives the vaccine will need to be accompanied by a parent.

Children aged 5-11 will receive the EMA’s approved dosage of 10µg, or micrograms, as opposed to the 30µg dosage given to those aged 12 and up.

The second dose will be administered three weeks after the first.

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

Will the vaccine be made mandatory for children?

The vaccine is not mandatory for children.

Those under the age of 12 in Italy are not required to have the Italian Covid health certificate or ‘green pass’, or its successor, the ‘super green pass’ (available only to those who are vaccinated against or recovered from Covid) to access any events or facilities.

Will children who have recovered from Covid be offered the vaccine?

Yes – though it’s unclear at this stage whether they will be offered one dose or two, reports Corriere della Sera.

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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.