SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy begins offering fourth Covid jabs to most vulnerable

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.

Italy begins offering fourth Covid jabs to most vulnerable
A nurse talks to patient Giovanni, 99, during a Covid-19 vaccination drive in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The first administrations of second booster shots, or fourth doses, for the most at-risk groups began on Tuesday in the province of Rieti, Lazio, according to local media reports.

Fourth doses will soon become available across the Lazio region and in other parts of the country, with the northern region of Lombardy, around Milan, rolling out fourth doses from Thursday.

READ ALSO: First batches of Novavax Covid vaccine arrive in Italy

Italian medicines agency AIFA approved the second booster after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) ruled in favour last week.

The jabs are currently authorised in Italy for over-80s, care home residents and over-60s who are classed as vulnerable, and who had their last dose at least 120 days previously.

A fourth shot for those with compromised immune systems has been available since March.

For these categories, a fourth dose can be booked as usual, via pharmacies or family doctors, and via regional booking websites where available. (Find more information in a separate article here.)

It is not yet known if or when Italy may offer fourth doses to other groups.

Health authorities have previously said they are not planning to make a fourth dose mandatory, though an annual “top-up” shot is likely to be offered.

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

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in February that annual shots of a Covid-19 vaccine for the general population are “probable”, though confirmation will come later in the year.

“We will have to evaluate [fourth doses] for everyone after the summer,” Speranza said at the time. “It is to be considered probable, because the virus won’t shake hands and leave forever, unfortunately,”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS