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KEY POINTS: How will Italy enforce its vaccine mandate for over-50s?

Italy has made it compulsory for all over-50s to get vaccinated. Here’s what we know about how it will enforce the requirement.

Vaccines are now mandatory for over-50s in Italy.
Vaccines are now mandatory for over-50s in Italy. Tiziana FABI / AFP

Who’s subject to the mandate?

Everyone currently aged 50 and over in Italy, as well as anyone due to turn 50 by June 15, 2022, is now required to get a Covid vaccine.

The text of the decree, which was published in Italy’s Official Gazette on January 7th, is explicit that the rules apply to all those resident in Italy – not just Italian citizens.

The sanction applies not just with regard to first doses, but also for anyone who as of February 1st has failed to complete their primary vaccination cycle ‘in accordance with the instructions and within the time provided by circular of the Ministry of Health’ or get their booster dose within the time frame stipulated in a decree issued on April 21, 2021 and updated on June 17, 2021, the decree says.

According to the news daily il Quotidiano, that means that anyone in the age bracket who has gone more than six months since receiving their last shot would be in violation of the mandate – even if they have completed the primary vaccination cycle.

Why is Italy targeting the over-50s?

The latest records from the national statistics agency Istat show that 28 million people in Italy out of a total of 59 million residents – almost half the population – are over the age of 50.

Whilst Italy has one of highest Covid vaccination rates in Europe (74 percent are fully jabbed) it’s estimated that around 2.3 million people aged over 50 in the country have still not had a single dose.

There have also been plenty of reports in Italian media of how unvaccinated Covid patients are ending up in hospital intensive care wards.

In recent days the country has seen record highs in its Covid infection rates, with over 196,000 new cases recorded on Wednesday. Pressure on hospitals is mounting, and the majority of those hospitalised due to Covid are unvaccinated and over 50. 

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

By introducing the mandate, the government hopes to avoid overwhelming healthcare facilities and keep the country open as people return from their Christmas holidays and schools start up again.

“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,” said prime minister Mario Draghi at the cabinet meeting where the measure was adopted.

READ ALSO : Italian hospitals inundated with Covid patients

When does the rule take effect?

Those who fall into the age bracket are required to get vaccinated from the day after the decree’s publication in the Official Gazette. As the decree was published on January 7th, the mandate came into force on January 8th.

To allow people time to book an appointment, sanctions won’t apply until February 1st.

From February 15th, workers aged 50 and over will need to produce a ‘super green pass’, which shows the bearer is vaccinated against or recently recovered from Covid, to enter their workplace.

A health worker administers a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
An individual receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on August 5, 2021 at the Ambreck pharmacy in Milan. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

Are there any exemptions?

Cases where the Covid vaccine would pose an “established danger to health, in relation to specific documented clinical conditions, certified by a doctor” are exempted from the requirement to get vaccinated.

In addition, any over-50s who can prove they have recovered from Covid in the past six months will be able to go to work using their ‘super green pass’ without having had the vaccine. Once that six month period is up, however, employees will require a vaccine to have their green pass extended so they can continue going to work.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What’s in Italy’s latest Covid decree?

What are the penalties for refusing to get vaccinated?

Employees over 50 caught in their workplace without the super green pass are subject to fines of between 600 and 1500 euros.

Those barred from entering the workplace because they don’t have a pass can’t be fired, but will be marked as absent without leave and will have their pay frozen until they can produce the pass and resume their employment.

Aside from these worker-specific penalties, the decree states that anyone living in Italy over the age of 50 who is found to be unvaccinated by February 1st will be fined 100 euros.

How are the authorities going to check?

As far as workplaces are concerned, it’s the responsibility of employers to ensure their staff are complying with Covid restrictions. 

Employers that fail to do so face fines of between 400 and 1,000 euros. All workplaces are subject to periodic checks by police to determine whether the rules are being enforced.

As for 100 euro fines for unvaccinated residents over the age of 50, the decree states that the sanction “shall be carried out by the Ministry of Health through the Inland Revenue-Recovery Agency (…) by acquiring data made available by the Health Card System.”

Those who the Italian health system has registered as unvaccinated will be notified and have ten days to communicate to their local health authority the reason why they’re not vaccinated, the decree says.

Member comments

  1. its a nightmare to get a vaccine here in the south Capaccio , the first jab last year I stood in a queue for five hours , the second wasnt too bad , around two hours then last week monday 27th dec I waited in a long queue for hours to be told they had run out of vaccine and to come back on monday jan 3rd Which I did , they opened at 15.00 I arrived at 13.00 and there was already a queue , although I was no 6 and they opened at 15.00 I didnt actually get jabbed until 16.27 . there were many people behind me and I doubt they all got a jab , probably waiting many hours I am 72 years old and view myself as fit and healthy , there were many others who should not have been put through that torture of waiting for hours in the cold , they obviously had ailments , the next jab day is friday 7th open at 15.00 hours , the staff seem to be working really hard , its the organisation . I feel that given how the virus is rising so quickly the vaccine centres should be open more through the week and with more vaccine to go round .

  2. We have sovereign rights as human beings. They cannot lawfully enforce this. The data you have quoted is just fear-mongering. How exactly can they distinguish between the alleged different strains of the virus, what test do they use now that the PCR has finally been recognised by the CDC as being unable to tell the difference between the seasonal flu and Covid 19. How many people have died from the Omicron variant and what is the ration of vaxxed to unvaxxed for these deaths? Filter in how many of the unvaxxed deaths are actually vaxxed people who have been vaxxed for under 2 weeks, or 3 weeks, etc. Data is being manipulated to manipulate people.
    Instead of simply pushing government propaganda do some real, useful and informative research and give your readers an more critical and balanced viewpoint.

    1. Was this really a comment from the magazine? I am vaccinated but appaulled by the herassment of those who choose not to. Who are we going after next, fat people because they take up so much hospital resources year after year? It is shameful how the world has gone into hysteria. Rememer, average age for deaths in corona, well over 80 years. If you are not very old or in a risk group, corona is not a dangerous disease and finally we who are vaccinated are almost as contageous as the un vaccinated. Health is so much more than corona. With all this said, if you are in a risk group it is a very very good idea to get the vaccine.

      1. Thank you for your measured response, it gives me hope in humanity.
        I sincerely wish that I am wrong about the real purpose of the vaccine and that peoples’ health will not continue to suffer because of it.

      2. I agree completely. This comment from the local is disgusting. I remember the last time a group of people were rounded up, vilified and sent to camps. I thought that we’d learnt our lesson from history, but people seem to have been gripped by mass hysteria egged on by governments and mainstream media with sensible science ignored.

      3. Hi We can assure you this comment was not made by a journalist at The Local but by a reader. We have contacted them to change their alias and warned them about their comment. Kind regards. Ben

    2. There should be a denial from the Local for this comment as it breaches the ethics of journalism.

      1. Hi Malvin, We can assure you this comment was not made by a journalist at The Local but by a reader. We have contacted them to change their alias and warned them about their comment. Kind regards. Ben

  3. Did that comment originate from the Local or from someone too spineless/ashamed to be named? What a disgusting fascist comment. You are obviously too stupid or brainwashed to see that this has nothing to do with health. None of these measures have any effect on slowing the virus – just look at ‘the elephant in the room’ that is Sweden. You are being lied to by your government – it is tragic to see this happen to such a beautiful country

    1. Hi We can assure you this comment was not made by a journalist at The Local but by a reader. We have contacted them to change their alias and warned them about their comment. Kind regards. Ben

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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.