Italy to rethink vaccine rollout if supply problems persist

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MILAN, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Italy will have to rethink its COVID-19 vaccination plans if supply problems persist, a senior health official said on Saturday.

The country had already had to cut its daily inoculations by more than two thirds because of delays in deliveries of shots from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc, Franco Locatelli, the head of Italy’s higher health council, told a press conference.

Now that AstraZeneca Plc has also warned of cuts in deliveries to its doses – even as they await clearance for use in the bloc – Italy might have to redraw its national roll out at the end fo the month, he said.

Vaccinations in Italy have slowed to 20,000-25,000 a day from peaks of more than 90,000 around two weeks ago, Locatelli said.

Rome has threatened to sue the Pfizer which said last week it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output.

Pfizer’s vaccination deliveries to Italy were 29% lower this week and would be down 20% next week, though they should return to agreed levels from Feb. 1, Locatelli said.

On Friday, a senior official told Reuters AstraZeneca had also informed the European Union it will cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% because of production problems.

The European Medicines Agency will rule on whether to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the bloc on Jan. 29 and Rome will have to reassess immunisation plans after that, Locatelli said.

“The reduction calls for a rethinking of the vaccine rollout we had initially envisaged. We’ll have to consider matters towards the end of January,” Locatelli said.

So far 1.312 million doses of vaccine had been injected in Italy, corresponding to around 70% of deliveries, placing Italy second in Europe after Germany, Locatelli said.

Nearly 40,300 people have completed the vaccination cycle after receiving the second dose, he added. (Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Photo A medic waits for his turn at the anti Covid vaccination center set up at the Mostra d’Oltremare in Naples, Italy, 22 January 2021. The cut in the supply of vaccines disrupted the vaccination campaign in Italy allowing less people to get the second booster injection. Pfizer pledged to resume full supplies of the covid19 vaccine to all EU countries as of next week. EPA-EFE/CIRO FUSCO

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