Italy is expanding the number of people eligible for a booster vaccine as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic grips Europe.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza told lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies Wednesday that anyone aged 40 or over can get the booster shot starting December 25. 1.
Italy has already offered boosters to those aged 60 and over who received the last dose of the vaccine at least six months earlier.
The country has not been hit as hard by the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic as some countries in the north, including Austria and Germany, as well as several Eastern European nations.
The Italian authorities are rushing to keep it that way.
Experts largely credit the Italian vaccination rate. Nearly 84% of those 12 years of age or older and eligible for shots are fully vaccinated.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Italy has also required masks to be worn indoors in places such as supermarkets, cinemas, churches and on mass transit. Other anti-pandemic measures include a requirement starting this fall for a so-called Green Pass certification of vaccination, COVID-19 recovery, or a negative test to enter workplaces. Certification was already required for indoor restaurants, gyms, museums and theaters.
Announcing the expansion of booster suitability to those 40 years and beyond, Speranza called boosters “an essential piece of our strategy to combat COVID.”
The minister added that “the more this country is able to strengthen itself in accelerating the administration of the third dose, the more we will be able to manage the end of autumn and winter, which represent an open challenge and not easy to implement. “
Anyone who has received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine can also benefit from a booster, regardless of age.
So far nearly 40% of people already eligible for boosters in Italy have received the third dose, according to data from the Italian government.
Doctors and virus experts said around 25% of all recent cases in Italy have occurred among minors, and authorities are hoping for regulatory approval soon for COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 years.
Among the regions most affected recently was Friuli Venezia Giulia, with groups of virus outbreaks linked to the frequent protests in the port city of Trieste by unmasked and unvaccinated demonstrators against the obligation of the Green Pass in the workplace .