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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy to give Covid vaccine boosters four months after last dose

From January 10th, vaccine booster shots will be made available four months after the last dose instead of five, Italy’s pandemic emergency commissioner confirmed on Monday.

People wait to be vaccinated at a hub in Milan.
Italy is further shortening the gap between second and third vaccine doses as Omicron spreads. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The date, which was previously only hypothetical, was confirmed on Monday morning by emergency commissioner Francesco Paolo Figliuolo during a visit to a vaccination hub in Cuneo in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, reports Italian news agency Ansa.

Italy is currently allowing the administration of booster shots five months after the completion of the initial vaccination cycle (two doses of an anti-Covid-19 vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

Calendar: When do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change?

Figliuolo said on Monday that shortening the gap between doses “will give a further boost” to Italy’s vaccination campaign.

He added that health authorities are “racing to try to stem the Omicron variant”, with the new measures announced as cases soared to an all-time high in recent days.

The change was first announced on Thursday as the Italian government approved a new decree containing a raft of tightened health precautions, though no definite date was initially given for bringing booster doses forward.

Almost 90 percent of the Italian population now has at least some immunity to Covid, Figliuolo said, “between first doses and those recovered within the past six months” but he noted that around 5.7 million eligible adults in Italy remain unvaccinated, with numbers particularly high in the 30-59 age group.

“I’m still concerned by the vaccine hesitant, there are a few million people who could give us a hand in curbing the virus and especially these variants,” he said.

READ ALSO: Italy makes outdoor mask wearing compulsory

Asked if the government will consider further measures to increase vaccination coverage, such as a long-discussed vaccine mandate for the general public, Figliuolo said “I believe that bringing forward the third dose forward to four months from January 10th is a balanced choice for now, but I don’t want to rule anything out.”

“We have seen how quickly this virus moves with its variants, and that what one says today can be changed tomorrow by evidence from the field,” he said.

“Omicron is much more contagious than Delta, some say up to five times more,” he continued. “Fortunately for now there is no clinical evidence of increased seriousness, however it is clear that those who are fully vaccinated and especially those who have had the booster are well covered against Omicron.”

As coronavirus infection rates soared above 50,000 a day in Italy over the Christmas period, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into isolation over the holidays, health experts called for a review of current rules requiring seven days of isolation if vaccinated and a ten-day period for those who are not vaccinated.

For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

Member comments

  1. I have had both vaccines and due to underlying health issues I need my booster. Like everyone it’s impossible without a health card. Can anyone help? Is there any walk in clinics. I live in province of Pisa/Volterra.

    Joanne Berger

      1. I have tried many times. Either technical error or I cannot input codice fiscale. It’s impossible to type anything in there –

        Joanne Berger

        1. Hi Joanne
          I also live in Tuscany. The problem with the website (https://prenotavaccino.sanita.toscana.it/#/home) is that although it provides an option to book a vaccination online without a Tessera Sanitaria, the site requires the insertion of a “Codice Numerico” (as opposed to a Codice Fiscale). Unfortunately the relevant box will only accept numbers (no letters) so it is impossible to insert a Codice Fiscale. I have no idea why this is the case as all the other booking options on the website require the insertion of a Codice Fiscale. I have tried the HelpDesk number (800 004477) but, after holding for several minutes, keep getting cut off without being able to speak to anyone. If anyone can advise what “Codice Numerico” the website is seeking it would be much appreciated.

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COVID-19 RULES

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

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

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”

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