Italy gives green light to new dual-strain Covid vaccines

Italy has approved two new vaccines adapted to protect against both Omicron and the original strain of the coronavirus, according to medicines regulator Aifa.

Italy's medicines regulator has approved two new booster vaccines adapted against Omicron.
New monkeypox vaccinations are available in Vienna. Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP.

The Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) bivalent vaccines were approved by Aifa’s Technical Scientific Commission on Monday, according to an Aifa press release

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) had given its go ahead on Friday, after the US approved both vaccines last Wednesday and the UK approved the Moderna dual-strain vaccine in mid-August.

Studies have shown that the vaccines are more effective against at least three of the Omicron variants than the original monovalent vaccines, Aifa said. 

The vaccines are intended for use as a booster, and can be administered three months after the primary dose or any previous booster dose received.

The agency advises that medically vulnerable people and those over the age of 60 be given first priority, but they are recommended for use in anyone over the age of 12.

Italy began offering fourth dose Covid vaccines to the most vulnerable members of society in April, and to over-60’s in July.

While outgoing health minister Roberto Speranza has said a new autumn vaccination drive would begin in September, no firm plans have yet been published.

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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.