Covid-19: Italy recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for over-60s only

AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh risks says EMA.

From now on Italy will recommend the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine only for people aged over 60, the head of the nation's Superior Health Institute (ISS) Franco Locatelli announced on 7 April.

The decision by Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza, following consultation with experts, comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found a "possible link" between the vaccine and "very rare cases" of blood clots.

The EMA reached its conclusion after a review of 62 blood-clotting cases in Europe, 18 of which were fatal. However the regulator continues to maintain that the vaccine's benefits outweigh the risks of side-effects.

Locatelli told reporters that people in Italy who have already had their first dose of AstraZeneca could go ahead and receive their second dose, underlining that the government was not prohibiting the vaccine's use for under-60s.

Italy originally limited AstraZeneca to people under the age of 65 - Reuters reports - however on 8 March the Italian health ministry said it could also be administered to over-65s.

To date Italy has approved four covid-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, with the latter expected to arrive in mid-April.

For official information relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy see the health ministry website.