Italy plans to vaccinate 1.7 mln people by end-January

Some 1.7 million Italians will get vaccinated against coronavirus by the end of January 2021, the country’s Extraordinary Commissioner for the COVID-19 Emergency Domenico Arcuri said at a press conference here on Thursday.

The official said that under the government’s national COVID-19 vaccination plan, priority will be given to healthcare workers and the elderly.

“The first vaccine available will be that provided by Pfizer, and Italy will get the first tranche of 3.4 million doses on the basis of the procurement carried out at the European Union (EU) level,” Arcuri said.

He said the vaccines are expected to arrive in the country in the second half of January, and the plan is for the health services to be ready by that time to immediately start the vaccination campaign.

“Since this vaccine has specific characteristics, the 3.4 million doses will allow us to vaccinate 1.7 million people by the end of January, with each person getting two doses at an interval of about three weeks,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the country’s Health Ministry registered 36,176 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours — about 2,000 more than the previous day — including 18,503 new active infections.

The total number of actively infected people thus rose to 761,671. The vast majority of them (724,349) are currently isolated at home because they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms only. Another 33,610 Italians are hospitalized, 3,712 of them in intensive care units.

On Thursday, 17,020 new recoveries were reported, which brought the total number of recoveries since the pandemic officially broke out here in late February to 489,987.

There were also 653 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 47,870.

Overall, the country has registered 1,308,528 coronavirus cases (infections, recoveries and fatalities included).

A total of 250,186 people were tested across the country in the last 24 hours, which pushed the number of tests carried out to 19.7 million. Health Ministry figures showed that 14.4 percent of Thursday’s tests were positive. This ratio was 16.2 percent last Thursday, which suggests a moderate slowdown in the spread of the infection.

At the press conference, Arcuri compared the current epidemiological situation to that during the first COVID-19 wave in spring.

“Today, 95.1 percent of all those actively infected are cured at home because they have mild symptoms or none at all; at the peak of the first wave, the respective figure was 51 percent,” he said.

“At the same time, some 0.5 percent of the actively positive cases are treated in intensive care units today. At the peak of the epidemic in spring this figure was 6.7 percent.

“This change in the composition of the affected population suggests that we are able to trace the virus better and earlier, and therefore to isolate and cure the infected people while the virus has not yet caused its heaviest effects,” he said.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including Italy, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 12, there were 212 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 48 of them were in clinical trials.