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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 RULES

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.

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