MILAN (Reuters) – Italy will administer just a single vaccine dose to those infected with COVID-19 between three and six months beforehand, the health ministry said, a move apparently aimed at saving shots amid a stuttering EU inoculation rollout.
The recommendation applies to both people who have fallen ill and those who were diagnosed but had no symptoms.
Italy is the third European Union country after France and Spain to follow this path at a time when EU nations are struggling to boost their vaccination campaigns due to supply cuts imposed by drugmakers.[nL1N2KI0XA]
Italy, which has a population of around 60 million, had administered 4.76 million doses of vaccines as of early Thursday, with some 1.5 million people receiving the recommended two shots.
In all, it has received 6.3 million doses from manufacturers, but repeated supply delays have hampered inoculation efforts.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi has shaken up Italy’s management of the pandemic since taking office last month, replacing both the special COVID commissioner and the head of the civil protection agency with an eye to speeding up vaccinations.
Draghi also suggested at a meeting of EU leaders last week that first shots should be given priority. At present many EU countries, including Italy, are following drugmaker recommendations to give people two separate vaccinations and are holding back doses as a result.
Britain, which has left the European Union, has managed to vaccinate millions more of its citizens than any EU state, in part because it is using most of the doses at its disposal for initial shots.
The EU drug regulator EMA said on Wednesday it had not yet seen enough evidence to recommend changes to the dosage regime for COVID-19 vaccines.
On Tuesday night, German leaders urged doctors to use the full length of the approved interval between first and second vaccinations and to minimise stockpiling of booster shots to get more people started on the two-shot course.
The EMA recommends giving Pfizer and BioNTech’s injections three weeks apart and AstraZeneca’s up to 12 weeks apart.
(Reporting by Emilio Parodi and Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Shri Navaratnam and Nick Macfie)