Italy records rise in Covid vaccinations as ‘super green pass’ rules come in

The number of first doses of anti-Covid-19 vaccines in Italy rose for the first time in weeks ahead of the introduction on Monday of new restrictions on the unvaccinated.

People wait to be vaccinated at a hub in Milan.
People wait to be vaccinated at a hub in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

There was a 31 percent weekly increase in the number of first vaccine doses administered in the November 30-December 5th period, according to a report published on Thursday by Italy’s evidence-based medicine foundation GIMBE.

This was equal to 223,000 jabs in a week, health ministry data showed.

The modest uptick came after weeks of falling or stagnating vaccination rates, with the number dropping to a low of 105,000 in early November.

GIMBE attributed last week’s rise to the introduction of tighter restrictions on the unvaccinated under new ‘super green pass’ rules introduced on Monday.

In the same period, the number of third doses administered more than doubled.

Some 2.6 million booster jabs were administered, equal to a 52 percent increase week-on-week, the data showed.

The spike in booster uptake came as Italy began offering third jabs to all over-18s in the country from December 1st.

The Italian government has accelerated its booster campaign while tightening restrictions nationwide for those who choose not to get vaccinated as it pushes to keep immunisation levels in the country high amid a fourth wave of contagion.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s Covid green pass rules changed on Monday

A Civil Protection volunteer at a vaccination hub in Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The data published on Thursday also showed new coronavirus infections had risen by 22 percent over the same week, with a 12 percent rise in deaths, 16 percent increase in hospital admissions and 13 percent in ICU cases.

Access to many cultural and leisure venues, including nightclubs and sports facilities, is now restricted to those who can prove they are vaccinated or recovered under the new ‘super’ or reinforced green pass rules. Health passes which were issued based on recovery or vaccination will remain valid for entry to all venues.

Amid steadily rising infection and hospitalisation rates, several Italian regions are expected to be declared ‘yellow’ or ‘orange’ risk zones in the coming weeks under Italy’s tiered system of health rules.

However, under the ‘super green pass’ system, businesses can remain open and public transport will operate as usual – but with restrictions increasing further in ‘orange’ zones for those who are not vaccinated.

More than 88 percent of the Italian population has now had at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the latest health ministry data on Friday, while nearly 85 percent have completed the vaccination cycle (with two doses or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

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Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

Italy's Covid-19 vaccination campaign prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country's death toll by almost half, the national health institute (ISS) said on Wednesday.

Covid vaccines halved Italy's death toll, study finds

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, the ISS said in a press release announcing the publication of its report.

The report covers the period between December 27th, 2020, when the vaccination campaign began, and January 31st of this year, using a methodology initially developed for flu vaccines.

It said 72 percent of deaths avoided from the disease were among over-80s, 19 percent in the 70-79 range, 7 percent in the 60-69 range and 3 percent under 60.

Italy has been one of the countries worst affected by the  pandemic, with more than 160,000 deaths reported since February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.

To date, almost 90 percent of the population over the age of 12 has been fully vaccinated, as well as just over 34 percent of children aged five to eleven.

Italy on Tuesday began offering a fourth dose of an anti-Covid 19 vaccine to those deemed at highest risk from the disease, including over-80s and care home residents.