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COVID-19 VACCINES

Why one expert believes the pandemic in Italy will ‘end in spring’

While infection and hospitalisation rates continue to rise in Italy, some experts are optimistic that the ongoing vaccination campaign could soon mean the end of the health emergency.

Italy could be out of the pandemic by spring, according to an Italian virologist.
Italy could be out of the pandemic by spring, according to an Italian virologist. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

As Italy hit a new record daily number of vaccinations this week, one Italian virologist predicted the high vaccination rate could mean the country is “out of the pandemic” by spring.

Italy administered a record 686,000 anti-Covid vaccines in one day on Tuesday, Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo confirmed in an announcement issued on Wednesday,

Most of these – almost 550,000 – were third doses. Some 77,500 of were first doses, including 48,000 children and 22,500 first doses for the over-50s, after the government made jabs mandatory for this age group 

This means 86.5 percent of the eligible population over 12 years old has now been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest data available on Wednesday.

“Already in spring, between April and May 2022, we will reasonably be out of the pandemic,” Matteo Bassetti, director of the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Genoa, told Rai Radio1 on Wednesday.

“I believe that in Italy today 10-15 percent (of people) are positive, so about ten million people, and by spring more than one in two will be infected,” he added.

“I hope this means we will be able to remove masks, since I believe we will have 95 percent of vaccinated people,” he stated.

Masks are currently mandatory in outdoor as well as indoor public places across the whole of Italy until at least January 31st.

Italy hit another record on Tuesday with 220,532 new Covid infections, according to data from the health ministry, while rising hospitalisation rates are likely to push four regions into the more restricted ‘orange’ zone by Monday.

As infections continue to spread, Bassetti also criticised Italy’s current quarantine rules, which mean more than two million people are currently in isolation.

The Italian government announced a revision of the coronavirus quarantine rules under a new decree law last month.

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Quarantine is no longer required for close contacts if they have had a booster dose, or were fully vaccinated or recovered within the last four months (120 days).

But, seemingly referring to the quarantine requirement for those who have had two doses more than four months ago, Bassetti criticised the rule as “stupid”.

“If I had had to do (quarantine) for every contact I had, I would have had to stay at home since last February,” he added.

COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

Italy has extended the availability of a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot as infection rates surge across the country.

Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

The Italian health ministry announced that fourth Covid vaccine doses, or second booster shots, will soon be available to all residents aged 60 and over, as national medicines regulator Aifa gave the green light on Monday.

Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday that doses could be administered to this age group “immediately”, as Italy “moves in line” with recommendations from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“In the coming hours, immediately, already today, we will adapt our guidelines, our circulars and our indications. We will immediately open up administration in our regions.

“We mustn’t think that the battle against Covid is won. It is still ongoing and we must keep the level of caution high,” he said.

The health ministry confirmed in an update on its website that second booster doses were now recommended to “all persons aged 60 years or older, provided there has been an interval of at least 120 days since the first booster dose or the last post-booster infection (date of positive diagnostic test)”.

READ ALSO: Fourth jabs and isolation: Italy’s plan to control Covid cases this summer

The availability of fourth doses will vary by region, as each local health authority is responsible for managing the timing of its own vaccination campaign.

Several regions, including Lazio (around Rome) and Lombardy (around Milan), said on Monday that they would allow over-60s to book their fourth jabs within the coming days.

A fourth dose can be booked as usual, via pharmacies or family doctors, and via regional booking websites where available. (Find more information in a separate article here.)

Speranza didn’t say when second booster shots may be rolled out to all age groups, stating only that “a new vaccination campaign” is set to begin in September.

Health authorities have previously said they are not planning to make a fourth dose mandatory, though an annual “top-up” shot is likely to be offered.

Until now, only over-80s, care home residents, and clinically vulnerable patients have been eligible for a fourth shot in Italy.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

But health experts are also urging the government to speed up the administration of fourth jabs to these vulnerable groups: uptake remains far lower than hoped so far, with 78 percent of over-80s not getting theirs yet.

With the coronavirus infection rate now at its highest level since February, and the number of hospitalisations expected to keep rising in the coming weeks, the health ministry has not said whether it plans to bring back any recently-scrapped health measures.

For now, the government’s strategy appears to be focused on maintaining the relatively high rate of vaccination coverage in Italy: 90 percent of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated with at least two doses, official figures show.

Find out more about booking a booster shot in Italy in a separate article here. See the government’s ‘prenotazione vaccino‘ (vaccine booking) website for links to regional authorities’ appointment reservation platforms.

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