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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for over 50s

The Italian government passed a decree on Wednesday night that will make it mandatory for all over 50s to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as the country battles record infection rates.

A health worker administers a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
A health worker administers a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Janssen) against the Covid-19, on August 5, 2021 at the Ambreck pharmacy, in Milan, during a vaccination campaign on people over 60 years. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

“The government voted unanimously to gave the green light a new decree that will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all over 50s,” the ANSA news agency reported.

“We want to slow down the curve of contagion and encourage Italians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during a cabinet meeting at which the measure was adopted, according to a statement.

“We are working in particular on the age groups that are most at risk of being hospitalised, to reduce pressure on hospital to save lives,” he added.

The new decree obliges people over 50 who do not work to get vaccinated, and those who do work to obtain a vaccine pass — which effectively covers all over 50s.

The new measure makes Italy one of very few European countries to make vaccination compulsory for a section of the general public. Austria announced in November it would make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory from February in a bid to tackle low vaccination rates.

Italy’s healthcare staff, police, teachers and emergency services workers are already subject to a vaccination mandate.

In another statement, the government said that “the vaccine pass (super green pass) will be necessary for people over 50 in the public and private sectors to access their workplace from February 15th.”

The ‘super’ or ‘reinforced’ green pass health certificate, which proves vaccination or recovery, has already been made compulsory for access to almost all leisure, social or sporting activities in the country.

The obligation will be effective until June 15th, according to an earlier draft version of the decree.

READ ALSO: How will Italy enforce its vaccine mandate for over-50s?

Italy has reported record Covid infections in recent days with another 189,000 cases registered on Wednesday.

Out of Italy’s 59 million people, 28 million are over the age of 50, according to the Istat national statistics agency.

Late last month the government said that from January 10th a “super green pass” would be required to use public transport and access hotels, restaurant terraces and gyms.

Previously a green pass giving proof of vaccination — or a recent negative test — had been required.

A total of 1.4 people are currently positive in the country.

Italy was the European country first hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and still has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 138,000.

Member comments

  1. So what if a person refuses? Jail? Tie them down and inject them? I’m sorry but this is crazy, especially given the fact that deaths in Italy are 1/5 what they were last winter and at the beginning of the pandemic, and will likely taper off as omicron takes over.

    1. Agreed, it’s crazy. We’re doing so much better than a year ago in terms of deaths so there’s no reason to introduce more authoritarian policies. Cases don’t matter if deaths are low.

      Plus this shot doesn’t even stop “vaccinated” people getting sick and spreading it to others, it just reduces symptoms, so why would we force anyone to get it? Do we really not believe in bodily autonomy anymore? I thought my body my choice was an accepted moral value of our society. The whole argument that you get the shot to protect other people went out the window when we learned 6 months ago that this shot did nothing to stop transmission. Now it is truly is a personal medical choice that people have a right to make privately.

  2. Hilarious that the photo above shows someone getting the J&J vaccine. Meanwhile the CDC in the US is now recommending getting Pfizer or Moderna instead because of blood clot risk associated with J&J. I guess we’ll learn as we go.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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