Italy aims to vaccinate at least 80% of population by end of September


People queue to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

ROME (Reuters) - Italy said on Saturday it aimed to vaccinate at least 80% of its population by the end of September, following criticism about the slow pace of the rollout of a coronavirus vaccination campaign in one of worst-hit nations in Europe.

Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, an army general and new special commissioner for coronavirus, released a national plan to administer 500,000 doses a day at full capacity, according to a cabinet office document.

Italy has registered 101,881 deaths since the outbreak emerged in the country in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. It has reported 3.2 million cases of infection to date.

Some 1.95 million Italians, equal to just 3.8% of the eligible population, have been administered two jabs of vaccine so far, sparking public criticism about the slow pace of the rollout and prompting the appointment of Figliuolo.

Italy expects to receive an increasing number of vaccines, with total deliveries raising from 15.7 million doses in the first quarter to 52.5 million between April and June to a peak of 84.9 million in the third quarter, the document said.

It plans to broaden the health operators administering shots by boosting an existing agreement to employ family doctors and by using dentists, junior doctors, doctors from the Italian Sports Medicine Federation and others.

In addition to healthcare facilities already in operation as vaccination points, Italy will use military barracks, production sites, large-scale retail outlets, gyms, schools and Catholic church's facilities.

Just under 51 million Italians are eligible for the vaccine and 60% of them could be vaccinated by the end of July, reaching the first threshold for herd immunity, the document showed.

Patheon Thermo Fischer, part of U.S.-listed Thermo Fischer Scientific, is ready to launch mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine in Italy, a government source said on Friday.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Francesca Landini; Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mike Harrison and Edmund Blair)

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