Covid-19: Italian regions pause new vaccinations after Pfizer supply delay

Italy is pushing ahead with second vaccinations, but most regions are pausing first doses following news that deliveries of Pfizer’s vaccines will be delayed.

Covid-19: Italian regions pause new vaccinations after Pfizer supply delay
Nurses prepare to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to healthcare workers in Rome. Photo: AFP

Italy is pushing ahead with second vaccinations, though many regions will suspend first doses following news that deliveries of Pfizer’s vaccines will be delayed.

Italy has  begun administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to health workers and elderly care home residents who received the first dose three weeks ago on ‘V-Day’, December 27th, the start of the European vaccine roll-out.

READ ALSO: Italy has vaccinated more than one million people against Covid-19

However, just as Italy began distributing the second doses, the vaccination campaign in Italy and elsewhere in Europe was hit by a temporary reduction in supplies of the vaccine by Pfizer.

Pfizer announced on Friday that it would supply fewer doses of the vaccine than originally expected this week due to work to upgrade its factory in Puurs, Belgium.

The company has since confirmed it will resume expected delivery volume from January 25th.

Due to the delay, Italy is set to get around 165,000 fewer doses than expected.

Which regions are affected?

As a result of the delay, all Italian regions have had their vaccination allocations cut except for the following six: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Marche, Molise, Umbria and Valle d'Aosta, according to Rai.

Many regions including Tuscany and Veneto have announced that they’ll only be administering the booster doses, while pausing new vaccinations.

Regional health authorities had reportedly been told to set aside 30 percent of the doses to ensure second doses could be administered smoothly, but not all have done so. 

Campania for example has already administered 97 percent of available doses, and other regions such as Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Umbria and Tuscany have given over 80 percent.

Photo: AFP

The European Commission has purchased some two billion vaccine doses from multiple companies for use in the 27 member states. 

The contract with Pfizer/BioNTech is for 600 million doses, half of which were set to be delivered before September.

While EU member states started vaccinating people on December 27th in a coordinated roll-out, each country is responsible for its own vaccination strategy.

In Italy, the vaccination programme also varies by region.

Italy has so far administered 1.1 million of its 1.4 million doses –  the most in Europe in numerical terms. 

COMPARE: How fast are European countries vaccinating against Covid-19?

As of January 18th, a total of 1,153,501 vaccinations have been administered in Italy – or nearly 82 percent of the doses delivered so far.
Italy's latest vaccination data, both regional and national, is being regularly updated on this website.

The vaccine is not yet available to the general population in Italy.

Some regions including Lazio have said they aim to begin vaccinating over-80s in February.

Doctors and other health care workers are first in line (some 1.4 million people) along with residents in care homes – just over 570,000 people. the health ministry has said.

Those aged over 80 will be next in line, followed by those aged 60-79, and those suffering from at least one chronic disease.

Vaccines will then be distributed to key workers – teachers, police, prison wardens 

After that, it will be offered to the general population at walk-in centres and specially-designed kiosks.

While the government plans to have up to 1,500 vaccination kiosks built in time for the roll-out of the vaccine to the general population, data shows there are currently 293 distribution points across Italy.

The vaccine will be free, and will not be obligatory.

Italy's government said it was confident most of the population could be vaccinated by September, Reuters reports.

Scientists estimate that 60-90 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated – possibly every year – to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus and stop future outbreaks.

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Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Italy on Thursday reported its first case of monkeypox, joining a number of other European and North American nations in detecting the disease endemic in parts of Africa.

Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Monkeypox was identified in a young adult who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, Rome’s Spallanzani Institute for infectious diseases said.

He is being treated in isolation and is in a reasonable condition, it said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies, adding that two other suspected cases were being investigated.

Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for the Lazio region that includes Rome, confirmed on social media that it was the country’s first case, adding that the situation was being “constantly monitored”.

Cases of monkeypox have also been detected in Spain and Portugal – where more than 40 possible and verified cases have been reported – as well as Britain, Sweden, the United States and Canada.

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than smallpox’s: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was coordinating with UK and European health officials over the new outbreaks.