Italy extends mandate for COVID vaccine to everyone over 50

ROME (Reuters) – Italy on Wednesday made vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for people over 50, one of very few European countries to take similar steps, in a bid to ease pressure on its health services and reduce deaths. .

The measure is effective immediately and will continue until June 15.

Italy has recorded more than 138,000 deaths from the Corona virus since its appearance in February 2020, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain.

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Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government had made vaccination mandatory for teachers and health workers, and since October last year all employees had to be vaccinated or tested negative before entering the workplace.

Refusal leads to suspension from work without pay, but does not lead to dismissal.

Wednesday’s decree tightens this order for workers over 50 by eliminating the option to get tested instead of being vaccinated. It was not immediately clear what the punishment would be for those who break the rule as of February 15.

The decree was approved after a two-and-a-half hour cabinet meeting that saw friction within Draghi’s multi-party coalition.

“Today’s actions are aimed at keeping our hospitals running well while at the same time keeping schools and businesses open,” Draghi told the Cabinet, according to his spokesperson.

A man receives a dose of Moderna’s vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the day the government is expected to approve new rules for schools and vaccinate workers against COVID-19, at the Music Hall in Rome, Italy, January 5, 2022. Reuters / Guglielmo Manjiapan

Ministers from the right-wing League party issued a statement disassociating themselves from the 50-plus-year vaccination rule, calling it “without scientific basis, arguing that the absolute majority of those hospitalized are over 60”.

The League succeeded in watering down an earlier draft of the decree proposing that only people with evidence of vaccination or recent injury should enter public offices, non-essential stores, banks, post offices, and hairdressers.

The final decree ruled that these places would remain open to non-vaccinators as long as they could test negative.

Elsewhere in Europe, Austria has announced plans to make vaccination mandatory for those over 14 from next month, while in Greece it will be mandatory for those over 60 from January 16. read more

Italy was affected later than many northern European countries due to the highly contagious variant Omicron, but the caseload has risen steadily in recent weeks, with increasing pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.

It has seen an average of more than 150 deaths per day over the past two weeks, with 231 deaths on Wednesday and 259 on Tuesday. And 189,109 new infections were recorded on Wednesday, the highest levels since the beginning of the epidemic. Read more

According to Our World in Data, about 74% of Italians have received at least two vaccinations and 6% have only received one. About 35% received a third “booster” injection.

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Written by Gavin Jones

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