Italy makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all health workers
ROME (Reuters) – All health workers in Italy must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday, in a potentially controversial measure aimed at protecting vulnerable patients and fending off feelings of ‘no-vax’ .
Italy has a entrenched anti-vaccination movement and the recent discovery of clusters in hospitals after staff refused to be vaccinated has sparked an uproar in a country where more than 109,000 people have died from the disease.
However, critics of the government have questioned the legality of forcing only certain categories of workers to be vaccinated.
Wednesday’s decree approved by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office stipulates that health workers, including pharmacists, “must be vaccinated”. Those who refuse can be suspended without pay for the remainder of the year.
“The purpose of the measure is to protect as much as possible medical and paramedical personnel and those in environments likely to be at greater risk of infection,” the government said in a statement.
The decree also introduces legal protection for those who administer the injections, a measure doctors and nurses demanded after doctors were placed under investigation for manslaughter following the death of a vaccinated man in Sicily.
Italy, whose vaccination campaign has been hampered by supply delays that have also hit other countries in the European Union, has pledged to reach 500,000 daily vaccinations in April against around 230,000 currently.
Some 10 million doses have been administered here since the end of December, with around 3.1 million of Italy’s population of 60 million having received the two recommended injections.
Italy has seen a resurgence in coronavirus infections and deaths over the past month and the government has tightened restrictions on businesses and movements to contain the virus.
Borders are calibrated in all 20 regions of the country according to a four-level color-coded system (white, yellow, orange and red) and are normally based on local infection levels.
Wednesday’s decree said that everywhere would remain a harsher red or orange zone until April 30, giving vaccines time to work. This means that restaurants, bars and gyms will remain closed and that many regional trips will be banned.
However, in a concession to coalition parties that complained about the lengthy restrictions, the executive order said it would be possible to relax some restrictions in areas that have high vaccination rates and low infections.
Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Crispian Balmer