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EXPLAINED: Who does Italy’s new Covid vaccine mandate apply to?

People wait to be vaccinated at a hub in Rome.
Italy has expanded its vaccination requirement to more key workers from December 15th. Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP
The Italian government has extended the obligation to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to more groups to keep the spread of infection under control. Here's who mandatory immunisation now applies to.

After making vaccinations compulsory for all healthcare workers in April, the Italian government expanded the requirement to more categories of workers in a decree signed into law on November 26th.

Not only are all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, obliged to get vaccinated, authorities extended the list from December 15th to cover more public sector workers in a bid to curb the rising case numbers and protect the vulnerable.

Italy had set a new target of covering 90 percent of the eligible population in October, which has not yet been achieved, as the current figure is 85.1 percent, according to official figures.

READ ALSO: Italy expands Covid vaccine requirement to teachers, police and rescue workers

To encourage more of the unvaccinated to get their shots – particularly those at higher risk of infection – the obligation now applies to health administrative staff, school teachers and administrative staff, military personnel, police and emergency services personnel.

Italy hasn’t so far introduced mandatory vaccinations for the general public, but the move follows the introduction of the so-called ‘super green pass‘, which tightened the rules for everyone still unvaccinated in a move the government hopes will keep infection rates down without resorting to business closures.

Here’s a breakdown of who is now required to complete the vaccination cycle, according to details published in a circular by Italy’s interior ministry on December 2nd.

Healthcare workers

Healthcare professionals and healthcare workers employed in public and private healthcare, social and health care and social assistance facilities, pharmacies, or other stores that sell over-the-counter medicine are all obliged to undergo vaccination.

This requirement has been in place since the mandate was passed for this group in April.

Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

Only in the event of proven danger to health, due to documented clinical conditions, can an employee avoid or postpone the mandatory shots.

Since this rule has been in place for around eight months already, from Wednesday December 15th this group is now also obliged to get their third booster dose.

Also from this date, the compulsory vaccine rule was extended to more people within the category, namely health administrative staff.

This means that staff working in any capacity in health and social care facilities are required to get immunised, excluding those working under external contracts. It includes administrative workers in residential care homes.

Refusing to get vaccinated as per the law “results in immediate suspension from service, without disciplinary consequences and with the right to retain employment,” reads the circular.

Suspended workers will receive no pay.

School staff

School employees who meet the criteria for mandatory shots include those in the national education system as well as those employed by private schools and children’s educational services. Vaccination is also a requirement for school managers.

According to the circular, “vaccination is an essential and mandatory requirement for the work of school managers, teachers and auxiliary staff of the educational institutions of the national education system.”

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This also covers employees in other school and training services, applying to all staff on fixed-term contracts (determinato) and permanent staff (indeterminato).

The vaccination requirement also covers any school staff “who provide pre- and post-school care”.

Not everyone physically working in schools is required to get vaccinated, however. Support teachers and those serving school lunches, for example, are excluded from the obligation.

Those who are currently absent, in the case of maternity or parental leave for example, are excluded from the requirement for the length of the absence.

School staff who are required to get immunised but refuse to are subject to the same sanctions as healthcare workers.

A member of Italy’s Guardia di Finanza Financial Police Force patrols a check-point at an entrance to the small town of Zorlesco on February 26, 2020.

Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Police

All workers in Italy’s defence, security, emergency rescue and juvenile and community justice sectors, as well as police, intelligence officers and prison guards, are obliged to undergo a full immunisation cycle.

Failure to comply with the vaccination requirement for the police force “results in the suspension from service of the employee, who is not due any compensation and will be temporarily deprived of his identification card, badge, individual weapon and handcuffs,” according to the circular.

READ ALSO: Guardia di Finanza to Carabinieri – who does what in the Italian police force?

Military personnel

All defence staff are now also obliged to complete a full vaccination cycle.

The Defence General Staff, headed by Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, clarified the rules in a ‘Directive on compliance and operational guidance for employers in the Ministry of Defence in the verification of mandatory vaccination’ on December 10th.

The vaccination requirement “comes into force” for defence personnel from December 15th, reads the text and “this requirement also includes the next booster dose”.

“The vaccination thus becomes for the personnel of the sector an essential requirement for the performance of the working activity,” it continued.

As for other categories, failure to comply will result in “the immediate suspension of the right to perform the work” but also “the loss of the right to pay”.

The period of suspension from service means a “loss of seniority” as well as forfeiting “the accrual of holidays” for the time absent from work. Any suspension “will in any event cease to be effective six months after December 15th 2021”.

Photo by Gent SHKULLAKU / AFP

Emergency services

All personnel working in the rescue services must get vaccinated, as per the government mandate.

This includes all those working for the interior ministry’s Department of Fire, Public Rescue and Civil Defence

That means all employees in public rescue and firefighting, including assistance in the active fight against forest fires, fire prevention and technical safety and civil defence and contribution to civil protection policies must now get immunised.

Refusal to get the required first two doses plus the booster shot will result in the same sanctions as for other categories.

Sanctions

In addition to being suspended without pay, heavy fines will be imposed on anyone in these groups found at work without vaccination.

“The carrying out of work in violation of the vaccination requirement is punished with the payment of a fine ranging from €600 to €1,500 euros,” reads the decree law of November 26th.

Those who fail to check whether staff have been vaccinated will also be fined up to €1,000.

Third doses

The mandatory Covid-19 vaccination covers the entire vaccination cycle, including the obligation to get a third dose or booster shot.

The booster is available five months after the last dose, and must be given “within the validity period of the Covid-19 green certificates”, which means within nine months of the last shot.

READ ALSO: Italy to offer Covid booster jabs to all over-18s from December 1st

Exemptions

Exempted from the vaccine are those who have “a case of established danger to health, in relation to specific documented clinical conditions, certified by the general practitioner, in accordance with the circulars of the Ministry of Health on exemption from vaccination against Sars-CoV-2”.

There’s also a grace period for those who haven’t yet been vaccinated and are now required to, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Unvaccinated workers will reportedly have five days to produce documentation that will prevent them from being suspended from duty. Accepted documentation includes a certificate of vaccination or recent recovery or proof of a valid exemption.


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