UPDATE: Italy to ‘double’ AstraZeneca vaccinations after resuming jabs on Friday

UPDATE: Italy to 'double' AstraZeneca vaccinations after resuming jabs on Friday
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP
Italy has resumed administering AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine on Friday afternoon after EU drug regulators confirmed it was 'safe and effective'.

Italy suspended the use of the jab on Monday, one of a number of European countries taking precautionary action following concerns it was linked to rare blood clots.

“The administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine will resume tomorrow. The government’s priority remains to carry out as many vaccinations as possible in the shortest possible time,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement.

READ ALSO: AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe and effective’ against Covid-19, European Medicines Agency concludes

The director general of Italian medicines agency AIFA, Nicola Magrini, told a press conference earlier on Friday that it had lifted the ban after the green light from European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Magrini said that “the vaccine is safe, without age limits” and that a suspected link between the jab and rare blood clots or thrombosis had not been confirmed.

The health ministry’s prevention chief Gianni Rezza said that after the pause, the number of AstraZeneca vaccinations would now be “doubled”.

Rezza said there would be no change in vaccination procedures, but that the information leaflet on informed consent would be updated.

At one reopened vaccination in Rome on Friday afternoon, a queue of people with appointments quickly formed outside while others unsuccessfully tried to get a slot.

Most said they had no concerns about being vaccinated with AstraZeneca, although there was some frustration at the suspension of the programme at a time when most of Italy is locked down because of a surge in cases.

“I feel sad because, of course it is better to be safe, to study (the evidence), but in the end nothing changed, so we just lost four days,” one patient told AFP.

People in front of a vaccination centre outside Rome’s Termini train station as Italy resumed administering AstraZeneca vaccines on Friday, five days after suspending the programme over safety fears. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

After an emergency investigation, the EMA concluded on Thursday that the vaccine, developed at Oxford University, is “a safe and effective vaccine whose benefits in protecting people from Covid-19 hugely outweigh the risks”.

The EMA will continue to study any possible links between the injection and rare cases of blood clots.

Draghi’s government has said the vaccination campaign, which has had a slow start, is the only way out of the crisis.

It has set a target to triple vaccinations to 500,000 per day by mid-April and to fully vaccinate 80 per cent of the population by mid-September.

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Almost 104,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy in the past year, and the death toll is still rising by hundreds each day.

Yet there are fears the AstraZeneca row could strengthen opposition to the campaign in a country where so-called anti-vaxxer sentiment was already widespread.

An EMG institute survey for the Adnkronos news agency published on Wednesday asked respondents if the affair had damaged their confidence in vaccines, to which 49 percent answered yes and 49 percent no.

Government sources told AFP this week that the suspension of the AstraZeneca jabs meant around 200,000 fewer vaccinations this week.

Among the options reportedly under consideration to help catch up on the missed jabs are allowing pharmacies to administer vaccines and keeping vaccination clinics open round the clock.

After the EMA’s ruling on Thursday, some regional health services said that they would contact people whose appointment was cancelled to reschedule, while anyone who had an appointment from 3pm on Friday should go to their vaccination centre as planned.

Find where to get information about vaccinations in your region of Italy here.


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