New protocols, vaccine supplies to boost Italy's vaccination campaign: minister to paper

FILE PHOTO: A health worker stands in front of a woman who waits to receive a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Bergamo, Italy, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

ROME (Reuters) - A series of new rules and the supply of new doses will boost Italy's vaccination campaign, allowing the government to lift restrictions on businesses and citizens starting from May, the health minister said in an interview published on Monday.

"In May the conditions could exist to apply less restrictive measures, similar to those for the yellow (low-risk) areas ... We need to be highly cautious and prudent, and (the government) needs to do so gradually," Roberto Speranza told la Repubblica daily.

He said he expected the summer to be "different from the months that we are living now ... if we will vaccinate the majority of the population this summer we can allow ourselves more freedom".

Italy has administered over 13 million doses and Rome aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its population by the end of September.

Speranza said all citizens aged over 80 will be vaccinated by the end of April while over-60s will all receive at least a first dose by the end of June.

Following approval by the national medicines agency Aifa, Italy will start administering a second dose to those vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna shots after 42 days rather than 21/28 days, Speranza added.

The minister said Italy was expecting first supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, with 7.3 million doses confirmed for delivery by the end of the second quarter.

While the death rate from coronavirus has fallen in much of Europe as vaccinations take effect, Italy's has stayed stubbornly high.

Asked whether Italy's vaccination strategy was failing when compared to European peers like France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, Speranza said a comparison with the UK "made no sense", while the national vaccination campaign was "aligned" to the ones in the other three countries.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Catherine Evans)

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