Reader question: Can tourists in Italy get a Covid-19 booster vaccine?

Reader question: Can tourists in Italy get a Covid-19 booster vaccine?
Italy has one of Europe's highest vaccination rates - but there are some restrictions on who can access a jab. Photo: Tiziana FABI/AFP
As Italy’s Covid-19 booster shot campaign gathers pace, we answer a question we’ve received from readers who want to get their first two doses or booster shot while visiting Italy. 

With almost 85 percent of Italy’s eligible population fully vaccinated and hundreds of thousands of doses in storage, it would be easy to think that Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots would be readily available in the country for everyone, including foreign visitors. 

But this isn’t usually the case. Italy’s vaccination programme so far has been meticulously organised and subject to various strictly-enforced rules and restrictions.

Italy’s Covid vaccination programme is handled entirely by the public health system, meaning that it’s not possible to visit a private health centre and pay to get your vaccine of choice or a booster shot. 

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about visiting Italy this autumn

Italy’s healthcare system operates on a regional rather than a national level, so getting a booster in Tuscany will be a different process to getting one in Lombardy.

Vaccines in Italy were initially only made available to those who are registered with the Italian national health service, and many foreign residents in Italy who only have private health insurance reported problems when trying to register via their regional public health system to get their inoculations.

Most local authorities have since made it easier for those residents who do not have the required paperwork to access a vaccine, often via a pharmacy, and many have also organised vaccine open days or allowed certain age groups to access vaccines without advance booking.

READ ALSO: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

But overall Italy’s vaccination campaign has been meticulously organised, and this is also the case with the booster campaign. So far it appears that people are asked to show a tessera sanitaria (Italian health card) even in regions where advance booking for booster shots is not required.

A rigidly-enforced order of access based on age, occupation and risk group is again being applied.

Italy is set to begin allowing administration of boosters to all over-40s from November 22nd. Over-60s, the immunocompromised and medically vulnerable, health workers, the staff and residents of care homes, and those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are among the categories already eligible to receive a third dose.

Overall, it seems unlikely that tourists can expect to turn up and get a booster vaccine in most places in Italy, although there may be some localised exceptions.

While getting a Covid-19 booster shot won’t be straightforward if you’re a non-resident tourist in Italy, as it’s often up to the discretion of the regional authority, local health centre (ASL) in each area, it might still be worth asking.

For further information about the vaccination programme in each part of Italy, we recommend starting with your regional health authority’s website. Find contact details here.


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