Covid-19: Rome doctors refuse AstraZeneca vaccine

Some doctors refuse AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine at Rome airport hub, alleging they were promised Pfizer instead.

The Lazio region launched a major vaccination hub at Rome's Fiumicino airport yesterday and began administering covid-19 vaccines to 400 private-practice doctors and other healthcare professionals aged between 18 and 55.

However the massive, well-organised vaccination centre soon found itself at the centre of controversy, with multiple complaints from the doctors being vaccinated, some of whom walked away without receiving any vaccine.

The dispute centred around the type of vaccine being offered by the Lazio region, according to local media.

Doctors allege they were promised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which reports about 90 per cent efficacy, as stated in the letter they received and the consent forms they signed.

When the doctors arrived at the vaccination hub yesterday, however, they discovered they were to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has a much lower efficacy rate.

"We understand that some private-practice doctors under 55 have communicated to the ASL health authority that they will not be vaccinated with AstraZeneca because they believe it is not suitable for the level of risk in their profession," the president of the Rome guild of doctors Antonio Magi told Italian news agency ANSA.

"So far 700 have been vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, then the vaccination was suspended because there is a shortage of doses" - said Magi - "Now the AstraZeneca vaccines have arrived and the vaccination plan has changed: the under 55s will be vaccinated with that while the others will continue with Pfizer."

Doctors interviewed at the airport hub by Italian newspaper La Repubblica expressed doubts and unease about the situation.

One psychiatrist said it was "not correct from an ethical point of view," adding: "If we did this to our patients we would have problems. Some [doctors] have left and I understand them."

Another doctor, a gynecologist, told La Repubblica: "Today's vaccine is better than nothing, but it is not right, we were told it was Pfizer."

The Lazio regional health councillor Alessio D'Amato moved to assure those who doubted the effectiveness of AstraZeneca: "Even the Spallanzani Institute reassures sceptics about the efficacy of all vaccines available today in Italy, including that of AstraZeneca."

On 30 January Italy’s medicines regulator AIFA approved the covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, a day after its approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The AstraZeneca vaccine is the third approved for use in the EU after the ones produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Photo La Repubblica

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Wanted in Rome
Wanted in Rome is a monthly magazine in English for expatriates in Rome established in 1985. The magazine covers Rome news stories that may be of interest to English and Italian speaking residents, and tourists as well. The publication also offers classifieds, photos, information on events, museums, churches, galleries, exhibits, fashion, food, and local travel.
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