Covid-19: Rome nurse will be first in Italy to get vaccine

Army will distribute Pfizer covid-19 vaccine around Italy.

A nurse at Rome's Spallanzani hospital, a specialist centre for infectious diseases, will become the first person in Italy to receive the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

The female nurse will be among the five members of staff at the Spallanzani, including two doctors, a healthcare social worker and a researcher, to get the vaccine when the nationwide vaccination campaign begins on 27 December.

The Spallanzani, which has played a central role in battling Italy's coronavirus crisis, will act initially as the nation's central hub for the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on 21 December.

The covid-19 vaccines, due to arrive in Italy on Christmas Eve, will then be distributed across the country by the Italian military.

The imminent arrival of the vaccine comes as the new covid-19 strain sweeping through Britain has been confirmed in a person who returned to Rome in recent days from the UK and has been isolated at the Spallanzani.

Walter Ricciardi, a senior advisor to the Italian health ministry, was quoted in Rome newspaper Il Messaggero as saying he was "angry" with the UK for "staying quiet" and "not warning us" about the mutated coronavirus strain, despite knowing it was "in circulation since September."

Ricciardi believes that an extended lockdown is now necessary, "or at least very severe measures," with Italy risking a "new surge over Christmas." He added that he thinks it will be "difficult" for schools to reopen in January.

Ricciardi said the new strain "is not any more lethal, but it circulates more than 70-80 per cent faster." He also believes that the Pfizer vaccine will still be effective against the new variant.

This view was echoed by other top health experts in Italy including Spallanzani director Francesco Vaia who told ANSA: "The vaccine has not been put into doubt."

On 20 December Italy was among the first countries to ban flights from the UK over concerns about the new coronavirus strain.

Italy plans to dispense the vaccines from purpose-built pavilions, designed by Milan architect Stefano Boeri, to be located in city squares across the country.

Initially there will be 300 distribution points but this will rise to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is in full flow, said the country's coronavirus emergency commissioner Domenico Arcuri.

The covid-19 vaccine will be free and will not be obligatory in Italy, ANSA reports.