Italy set to start covid-19 vaccine campaign by end of 2020

Italy is set to begin vaccinating against covid-19 between Christmas Day and the new year, pending approval from the EMA.

Italy expects to begin its covid-19 vaccination campaign between Christmas and New Year’s Day, a government source told Reuters news agency on 16 December.

Italy is set to receive an initial 1.83 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will launch its vaccination programme before the end of this year, pending approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Amsterdam-based agency is to meet on 21 December to decide whether to authorise the shot, amid pressure from EU countries impatient to begin vaccinating.

The Italian government and Italy's regional leaders backed a plan to begin a programme of mass vaccinations, presented on 16 December by the country's coronavirus emergency commissioner Domenico Arcuri.

Medical workers will be first in line to receive the vaccine, along with staff and patients at care homes - according to Italian news agency ANSA - and the vaccine will be free and not obligatory.

Italy plans to dispense the vaccines from purpose-built pavilions to be located in piazze across the country. To begin with there will be 300 distribution points but this will rise to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is in full flow, Arcuri said.

The primrose-shaped gazebos were designed by celebrated Italian architect Stefano Boeri, best known for his Vertical Forest skyscraper in Milan, who chose the flower theme as it represents the arrival of spring.

Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said that Italy plans to coordinate its vaccination programme to begin on the same day as seven other European countries, including France and Germany, adding: "Finally we can see a light at the end of the tunnel."

On 2 December the UK became the first country in the world to grant emergency approval for the coronavirus vaccine, followed swiftly by the US, Canada, Singapore and Bahrain.