Italy's Lazio region urges people to take AstraZeneca, J&J shots

FILE PHOTO: Empty vials of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen on a table at a vaccination centre in Ronda, Spain, April 23, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Lazio region, centred on the capital Rome, is urging people to book AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shots, which have fallen out of favour with some residents over worries about possible side effects.

Like many European countries, Italy briefly halted inoculations using the vaccine made by AstraZeneca in March when concern surfaced over very rare blood clots. J&J supplies were also temporarily frozen because of similar cases.

Vaccinations have since resumed for both brands, but with a recommendation they should be given to those aged 60 and above after EU regulators said the benefits far outweighed the risks.

Lazio said on Sunday that while bookings for Pfizer-BioNTech shots were full until the end of May, some 100,000 AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines were still available, and people should book the first slot available.

"Please note that all vaccines are safe and effective," a statement from the regional coronavirus crisis unit said.

The announcement shows the complication some European countries have faced in pushing ahead with vaccinations when the public develops preferences among available shots. Italy has left it up to its 20 regions to manage its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Unlike some, which give residents little choice, Lazio effectively allows people to choose which shot they receive.

Other Italian regions are also facing supply shortages of the Pfizer vaccine, which uses a different technology and has not been associated with reports of rare blood clots.

Campania, around Naples, has said it will not be possible to guarantee inoculations in its two main vaccine hubs until Wednesday because they have run out of jabs. Last week Sicily said it was struggling to persuade people over 60 to accept the AstraZenenca shot because of all the bad publicity.

As of Monday morning, some 12.5% of Italians have received their full vaccine cycle, while 15.6% have received their first shot and are awaiting a second dose.

Pfizer has provided 65% of all the COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in Italy so far, with AstraZeneca supplying 24%, and Moderna and J&J the rest.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Peter Graff)

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