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COVID-19 VACCINES

First batches of Novavax Covid vaccine to arrive in Italy

Italy will begin to administer the new anti-Covid vaccine in the coming days, as millions of doses are scheduled for dispatch across the country and in other EU nations.

First batches of Novavax Covid vaccine to arrive in Italy
The Novavax vaccine is set to arrive in Italy following its approval for distribution. (Photo by Karen Ducey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

People in Italy aged 18 and over are now eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 with ‘Nuvaxovid’ – the name of the new Covid vaccine from the company Novavax.

Around one million doses are initially due to arrive in Italy by the end of February, according to Italian media reports.

Some 100 million initial doses in total have been shipped to Italy and other EU countries from the company’s Dutch distribution centre, the US medical company announced in a statement.

It’s hoped that Novavax could offer a more attractive alternative for previously unvaccinated people who are sceptical about the mRNA and vector vaccines.

“It’s a protein vaccine, like the flu vaccines,” said Italian medicines agency director Nicola Magrini earlier in February. “It will be a small supplement compared to the other mRna vaccines. Some seem to prefer it.”

READ ALSO: When and how will Italy offer a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose?

Some regions of Italy have already opened bookings for the new vaccine, noted Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The Marche region and Lombardy, for example, have started accepting vaccine bookings for the new inoculation, while Emilia Romagna is set to offer vaccine hubs with the new jab.

Each regional healthcare system can decide how it will administer the shot, so people looking to book their dose will need to check their region of residence’s guidelines. Find links here.

On a national level, Italy’s Ministry of Health has published a circular with instructions on the vaccine’s use ahead of its delivery.

Novavax, whose trade name is ‘Nuvaxovid’, has so far only been approved for the primary cycle. The first and second doses are given three weeks apart, while approval is pending for the third dose.

READ ALSO: How to try to get a Covid-19 vaccine without a health card in your region of Italy

A medical worker prepares a dose of Novavax

A medical worker prepares a dose of Novavax’s Covid vaccine for vaccination during a trial at St George’s University Hospital in London. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Alastair Grant

Nuvaxovid is a so-called protein vaccine which contains coronavirus-like particles that stimulate the immune system to produce defence antibodies and T-cells against SARS-CoV-2 – that is, white blood cells specialised to fight the virus to protect against Covid-19.

The ministry’s circular states that, “the duration of protection offered by the vaccine is not known, as it is still being determined in ongoing clinical trials”.

“None of the components of this vaccine can cause Covid-19,” the circular reads.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do I need to update my Italian green pass after a booster shot?

“Protection may not be complete until seven days after administration of the second dose. As with all vaccines, vaccination with Nuvaxovid may not protect all vaccinees,” it added.

Its efficacy, calculated during the trials, is 90 percent in preventing symptomatic disease, slightly lower than for the RNA vaccines, which reached 95 percent.

Tests were carried out before the arrival of the Omicron variant, however. It is possible that the protection of Novavax has dropped a little since then.

The vaccine rollout follows its approval by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) in December, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave the go-ahead just days before.

Find more information about Italy’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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