Italian authorities have been aiming to have half a million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered a day by the end of the month – a delay to the previous goal of reaching that number by mid-April.
“We will reach half a million daily shots in early May,” Fabrizio Curcio, the head of Italy’s Department for Civil Protection, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday
“But what will matter will be keeping to it over time,” he added. “This is crucially linked to the availability of vaccines.”
Italy continues to administer vaccines at a slower pace than the European average, amid a series of supply delays and other setbacks.
Despite a 35.5% increase in injections in the last three weeks, the average number of jabs daily is 315,506 – missing the target by more than 180,000.
So far, the highest number of doses administered in one day in Italy was 347,279 on April 17th.
The delays have been partially caused by health concerns following the suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca jab, which Curcio said had “affected public trust”.
Around ten percent of all those booked for the AstraZeneca jab in Italy have cancelled appointments due to concerns, he said.
In early April, Italy began to recommend the vaccine for over-60s only after the EU’s medicines regulator said blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of the jab, though stressed that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
IN CHARTS: Who is Italy vaccinating fastest?
As a result, the majority of vaccinations administered in Italy come from manufacturer Pfizer/BioNTech.
But the main problem for Italy, and many other European countries, has been the lower-than-expected number of vaccine doses delivered overall.
Italy’s vaccine campaign is expected to speed up sharply from May, Curcio said, as more doses arrive and family doctors, dentists and pharmacists are recruited to help administer vaccines.
“We’re ready to increase the daily inoculation rate,” Curcio said. “When doses arrive we’ll put them to use.”
He estimated that a total of 15 million more vaccine doses would arrive in Italy throughout May.
Italy on Thursday began distributing its first batch of 184,000 Johnson & Johnson single-dose shots, which had been blocked last week by a safety review by the European Medicines Agency.
The agency found on Tuesday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.
The Italian government is counting on the vaccination effort to help reduce pressure on hospitals and allow planned reopenings to go ahead in the coming weeks and months.
The country recently began focusing on vaccinating all over-75s, following accusations that prioritising other groups in the early stages of the campaign had put the lives of elderly and vulnerable people at risk.
The Covid vaccine is not yet available to the general public in Italy. Those in eligible groups can book an appointment with their local health authority (ASL).
Italy had administered more than 16.6 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Friday morning, according to official figures.
Almost five million people in the country are now fully vaccinated with both shots.