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POLITICS

Italy announces third dose rollout as Covid vaccination campaign nears its target

Italian authorities have confirmed that they will begin issuing a third dose of anti-Covid vaccines from September, beginning with the most vulnerable members of society.

Italy announces third dose rollout as Covid vaccination campaign nears its target
Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

The Italian government will make a third dose available to “fragile patients” in Italy from September, which includes cancer and transplant patients, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced at a news conference on Monday.

It’s a move backed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which has stated in its latest September report that the provision of additional vaccines should “remain the current priority” in the EU and EEA.

After the group most in need of a third dose, Speranza went on to say that the next target group will be the over-80s and health personnel, “which are the first categories who have received the vaccine and from which we will start”.

READ ALSO: Why September will be the ‘decisive’ month for Italy’s Covid vaccination campaign

The health minister also said vaccination figures among young people in Italy were encouraging.

“Young people are getting vaccinated more than other generations and this is a very good message. Italy’s numbers are positive and important but we need to grow even more,” he added.

Recent data analysis by Italian healthcare watchdog GIMBE has shown that the vaccination rate among younger age groups is consistently rising, and coverage among those in the 20-29 age range is now higher than that recorded for 30-39 and 40-49 year olds.

Speranza’s statement came at the end of a meeting of health ministers from G20 countries in Rome, at which they.passed the ‘Rome Pact’ pledging to make Covid-19 vaccines available to the whole world.

“The Rome Pact was unanimously approved by all of the G20 countries,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza told a news conference at the end of the two-day meeting.

While Italy begins administering a third dose, the G20 countries – the world’s largest economies – have committed to “take the (COVID-19) vaccines to the most fragile countries”, stated Speranza.

The Health Minister called for a so-called ‘One Health’ approach, “looking at human beings, animals and the environment as a single ecosystem to respond to the health emergencies of today and tomorrow”.

“The first point in investment in health systems,” he added. “We want to defend the universal framework – you have the right to be treated regardless of your class or race.”

The decision to begin a third dose rollout was first announced at a press conference on Thursday, at which Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also confirmed the government is considering whether to make Covid vaccinations obligatory as the country strives to meet its immunisation targets this month.

Italy aims to have 80 percent of the population over 12 years old vaccinated by the end of September. The current figure as of Tuesday stands at 72 percent, according to the latest government data.

Draghi confirmed that he was in favour of mandatory vaccines, while Speranza said an obligation to get vaccinated in Italy “is already in place for healthcare personnel, so in reality it already applies to part of our society”.

In fact, Italy passed a law in April making vaccination compulsory for anyone working in public or private social health positions, including in pharmacies and doctors’ offices. If they refused, they would be suspended without pay, unless their employer can reassign them to a non-public facing position.

On September 1st, authorities introduced a separate requirement for all school staff to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result under the ‘green pass’ health certificate scheme.

READ ALSO: How Italy has tightened the ’green pass’ rules in September

The government is also expected to announce a further expansion, which would make the pass mandatory for employees at workplaces considered essential, including public offices and supermarkets.

President of the Italian employers’ confederation, Confindustria, Carlo Bonomi stated that the move was necessary to make places of work safe.

“We are for the adoption of the green pass, mandatory in the workplace and this has opened a discussion,” he added.

For more information about the current coronavirus situation and health measures in Italy please see the official health ministry website (in English).

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Who can vote in Italy’s elections?

With Italy's next general election scheduled for September 25th, who is eligible to vote - and how can those who are do so?

Who can vote in Italy's elections?

Who can vote in Italy?

For the upcoming election in September, the answer is simple: only Italian citizens are eligible to vote in Italy’s general elections.

Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but national elections are reserved for Italians only.

Until recently, not even all Italian adults could participate fully in the process: just last year, voters needed to be over the age of 25 to take part in senate elections.

That finally changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021. It’s now the case that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate (both ballots are held at the same time).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

You don’t need to be resident in Italy to vote; Italian citizens living abroad can register to vote via post.

In fact, Italy is unusual in assigning a set number of MPs and senators to ‘overseas constituencies’ that represent the interests of Italians abroad.

These constituencies are split into four territories: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica. Each zone gets at least one MP and one senator, with the others distributed in proportion to the number of Italian residents.

Up until recently, there were as many as 12 MPs and six senators dedicated to overseas constituencies. This will drop to eight MPs and four senators from September, thanks to another reform enacted in late 2020.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

How can you vote?

While Italy has a postal vote option for citizens living abroad, Italians resident in Italy must vote in the town in which they are registered to vote (i.e., their comune, or municipality of residency), at the specific polling station assigned to them.

What's behind Italy's declining voter turnout?

Italian citizens who are resident in Italy can only vote in person. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The lack of a postal vote for Italians in Italy is thought to be one of the main factors behind Italy’s declining turnout in elections, and a parliamentary committee on elections has advised introducing one to help remedy the situation; but for now, only in-person votes count.

READ ALSO: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

Italians living abroad who are on the electoral register should receive their ballot papers (pink for the Chamber of Deputies, yellow for the senate) from their consulate in the lead up to the election. Their completed ballots must arrive back at the consulate no later than 4pm local time on September 22nd.

Those who haven’t received their ballot papers by September 11th should contact their consulate to request that the documents be resent.

Italians in Italy must have a tessera elettorale, or voter’s card, to be allowed to vote in person. The card contains the holder’s full name, date of birth, address and polling station. Every time the holder goes to vote, the card – which takes the form of a piece of reinforced folded paper – is stamped.

The tessera elettorale should be automatically sent out to Italians at their home address when they reach the age of 18; for those who acquire citizenship and move to Italy later in life, it should be automatically sent to their address by the comune where they are registered as a resident.

If the tessera gets lost, damaged, or becomes filled up with stamps, the holder should request a new card from their comune. 

When an individual moves towns, they should turn in their tessera in order to receive a new one from their new comune. For those who move house but stay in the same town, their comune should send an official slip confirming the new address that can be used to update their tessera.

Anyone who hasn’t automatically received a tessera elettorale and is entitled to one should contact their comune to claim theirs.

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