Public Policy Dynamics Italy #6
Health and Politics in Italy
|Total COVID-19 cases:||3,376,376|
|14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:||517.9|
|Total COVID-19 deaths:||104,942|
Italian Carabinieri have contentiously found 29 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in a warehouse in central Italy. Sources claimed that the doses were destined for the UK, but these rumours were later denied, claiming that they were destined for Belgium and other EU countries.
The text of the “Support Decree”, which includes several measures for health – in particular to address the current Covid-19 emergency – has been published, with additional funding of €2.8 billion. The State-Regions Conference meanwhile have approved an agreement to postpone the expiry of the national plans for vaccination prevention – which does not cover Covid-19 vaccinations.
- Prime Minister Mario Draghi recently delivered a landmark speech to the Senate ahead of the EU Council of 25 and 26 March. Draghi stressed the goal for the vaccination campaign is to increase the pace to half a million doses per day. He went on to say that while the vaccination campaign continues, it is appropriate to start planning for the reopening of schools. Regarding the vaccination coverage of the over-80s, large regional differences unfortunately persist.
- Following an inspection of the “Catalent” pharmaceutical company's factory in Anagni, the police found a large stockpile of vaccines (29 million doses). The press claimed that the doses are destined for the UK, but AstraZeneca affirms that 16 million doses are destined for the EU and the other 13 million for the Covax programme. The UK Government denied that any of the Anagni doses were expected in the UK, and an Italian government official said they appeared to be destined for Belgium. The EU will check where the vaccines will be delivered and whether they were originally produced in facilities authorised by the European Medicines Agency.
- On a more internal note, Enrico Letta, Italy's former prime minister, has returned to the political forefront as leader of the centre-left Democratic Party. Letta led a coalition government from 2013 to 2014 and had lately been urged internally within the party to run for the leadership, after his previous leader, Nicola Zingaretti, left the position complaining of internal strife. The Democratic Party hopes Letta can revive the party's declining popularity, which was actually at its peak in 2014.
- Published in the Official Gazette no. 70 of 22 March 2021, the text of the “Decreto Supporti” (Support Decree) has been approved by the Council of Ministers. The measure includes several measures for health, in particular to address the current Covid-19 emergency. The measure has an initial additional support of €2.8 billion for the purchase of vaccines, but also drugs against Covid-19, such as Remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies.
- To expedite the vaccination campaign, after the flop of last December's call for tenders, which aimed to recruit 12,000 nurses/health care assistants and 3,000 doctors, the possibility has now been given not only to family doctors, paediatricians and medical students, but also to outpatient doctors, dentists, as well as continuity of care doctors, territorial health emergency and service medicine doctors to participate in the vaccination campaign, with the aim of administering 56 million doses. On 25 March the State-Regions Conference approved an agreement to postpone the expiry of the national plans for vaccination prevention (which does not cover Covid-19 vaccinations) until 31 December 2021.
- Beyond vaccination, the Enea (the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) has developed a new device to produce isotopes economically and safely, using the TRIGA (Training Research Isotopes General Atomics) experimental reactor. Italy's entire requirement for at least two of the main isotopes used in nuclear medicine, such as 131I and 99Mo, could be substantially covered with the use of two of these devices, the project's creators explain. Among the advantages described, the main one concerns the target, i.e. the material to be targeted by radiation to produce the isotopes – this device allows the target to be re-irradiated in solution form up to hundreds of times, avoiding safety procedures involving the use of solid targets, with obvious savings in terms of costs and management.
- Council President Mario Draghi, in his statement to the Senate ahead of the EU Council of 25 and 26 March, said that the acceleration of the vaccination campaign was visible in the data. The goal is to increase the pace to half a million doses per day. He went on to say that, while the vaccination campaign continues, it is appropriate to start planning for the reopening of schools - but only after carefully following the data on contagions and if the epidemiological situation allows it. Schools in this case will be the first to reopen.
- Draghi stressed that accelerating the vaccination campaign is essential to curb contagion and return to normal, and even more so to avoid the emergence of new variants. He also argued that, when compared to the rest of Europe, for vaccines made Italy is second after Spain. In the United Kingdom, just to give an example, the vaccination campaign is proceeding more quickly, although the number of people who have received both doses is comparable to that of Italy. With regard to the vaccination coverage of those over 80 years of age, major regional differences unfortunately persist. While some regions are following the Health Minister's instructions, others are neglecting their elderly in favour of groups that have priority.