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How and when can you get a Covid-19 vaccine in Italy?

With Italy's Covid-19 vaccination campaign well underway, nearly 1.5 million people have already had both their shots. Here's how and when you can expect to get yours.

How and when can you get a Covid-19 vaccine in Italy?
Preparing a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Getting vaccinated isn’t compulsory in Italy, but it’s strongly recommended, free, and will ultimately be offered to every resident.

With a limited supply of vaccines, however, Italy has come up with a strict order of priority that means many of us will have to wait at least a few more months before we can get immunized.

Here’s who gets to go first, and how to get in line.

Who is Italy vaccinating first?

Italy began ‘phase one’ of its vaccination campaign at the end of December, when it first started administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to frontline health workers.

As set out in Italy’s national vaccination strategy, nursing home staff and residents were next in line. 

Despite a strong start, the roll-out stalled amid hold-ups in the supply chain. But by February, with hundreds of thousands of people in the two top priority groups fully vaccinated, Italy began extending the campaign to the general public. 

CHARTS: How many people has Italy vaccinated so far?

Its next priority group is people over 80, who are estimated to number around 4.4 million in Italy. 

But Italy revised its vaccination plan with the arrival of the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the Italian medicines agency recommends should only be used on adults aged 65 or under.

That proviso means that the AstraZeneca vaccine is earmarked for under-65s working in key sectors including schools, universities, prisons and the armed forces, while in parallel over-80s are getting either the Pfizer or Moderna version.

Because the campaign is delivered by separate regional health services, each region of Italy has its own vaccination timetable – but most have already started offering jabs to over-80s and key workers, or will do so shortly.

Who is next in line?

As EU regulators approve other vaccines and more doses arrive in Italy, vaccination will be extended to the groups next down the list:

  • People at very high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19, aged 16 up
  • People aged 75 to 79
  • People aged 70 to 74
  • People aged 16 to 69 with less severe health conditions
  • People aged 55 to 69
  • Everyone else aged 16 to 54

Find more information about Italy’s vaccine priority groups here.

When exactly these groups become eligible depends on how quickly new vaccines are approved, and how many doses arrive and when.

The national plan also says that doses can be reassigned if a new risk factor is identified or if there is a sudden outbreak in a particular area, for example.

What should I do if I’m eligible for a vaccine?

Vaccination at one of the roughly 1,500 specialised sites across Italy currently authorized to administer the shot is by appointment only. Do not go to a vaccination centre without registering first.

Most regional health services now allow eligible residents to book their jab online or by phone. You can also make an appointment on someone else’s behalf.

Depending on your region, you may be able to register via your usual doctor or in a pharmacy too.

Check your local health authority’s website or ask your GP about the procedure where you are. You’ll find links to all regional health services here

What if I’m not yet eligible?

It’s not yet clear when people further down the list can expect their shots. 

With around 4.6 million doses delivered in the first two months of the campaign, Italy’s new government has promised to speed up vaccinations, aiming to deliver 56 million doses by June (representing 28 million people fully immunized).

Currently around 108,000 doses are being administered daily.  At this rate, Italy would not meet its stated target of vaccinating most of the adult population until December 2021, instead of September as hoped.

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Under plans announced at the beginning of March, the new government says it wants to administer 200,000 doses per day this month, for a total of 6.2 million doses in March.

The number is set to rise to 400,000 per day in April (12 million per month), 500,000 in May (15.5 million) and 600,000 in June (18 million).

To facilitate this acceleration, the government reportedly plans to increase the number of vaccination sites in Italy to 2,000. These are expected to be operational by April.

Ultimately Italy plans to offer vaccination on a walk-in basis at pop-up centres around the country.

Can you get vaccinated privately in Italy?

No. The Health Ministry has stressed that Covid-19 vaccines should be free for all residents in Italy and does not allow any private facilities to offer them on a paid basis.

READ ALSO: Can foreigners in Italy get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Vaccination is expected to be offered without charge even to residents who are not registered with the Italian national health service (SSN), as is the case for other mandatory or recommended vaccines.

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HEALTH

Italy begins monkeypox vaccination drive in four regions

Italy this week began offering vaccination against monkeypox in regions with the most confirmed cases, the health ministry said.

Italy begins monkeypox vaccination drive in four regions

The first vaccinations against monkeypox, or vaiolo delle scimmie, were carried out in the Lazio region on Monday at Rome’s Spallazani hospital for infectious diseases.

The vaccination campaign will soon be extended to the three other Italian regions with the highest number of monkeypox cases: Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto.

A total of 4,200 jabs are available in Italy at the moment, according to national broadcaster Rai.

Italy has recorded just over 500 cases so far, though health authorities say the disease continues to spread.

Italy currently recommends vaccination for people in the following high-risk groups;

  • laboratory staff at risk of possible direct exposure to orthopoxvirus
  • gay, transgender, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that the monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency. So far this year, there have been more than 16,000 cases in more than 75 countries. Five deaths – all in Africa – have been linked to the virus.

First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than the eradicated smallpox virus, which it resembles, and an existing smallpox vaccine is being used against it.

See further details of the vaccination drive on the health ministry’s official website here or speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

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