Italian authorities approved a national plan for COVID-19 mass vaccination

Italian authorities approved a national plan for COVID-19 mass vaccination on Wednesday after a meeting between the central government and regional governors.

The announcement came from Italy’s Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri, after the State-Regions Conference, which comprises cabinet ministers and governors of the 20 Italian regions, approved the mass vaccination program.

The plan will begin with population groups considered at highest risk for COVID-19, such as medical staff and the elderly, and will later be expanded to the general public, Arcuri’s office said, adding that the vaccination will be free and not compulsory.

“The vaccination campaign will start with the first 1,833,975 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine distributed by (pharmaceutical company) Pfizer,” Arcuri said in a statement.

Italy will receive the vaccines through a centralized procurement system of the European Union, according to the authorization of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

If everything goes as expected, the first doses will be given to citizens in Italy immediately after Christmas, the commissioner said.

“In the following days, the first session of mass vaccination will involve … health and welfare workers, the staff of public and private hospitals, guests and staff of nursing homes,” he added.

The state-regions conference also approved the distribution plan for the first 1.8 million doses across the regions, based on their COVID-19 situation.

The second batch of 2,507,700 doses will arrive in Italy in the following weeks, according to the commissioner’s office.

On Wednesday, Italy registered 17,572 new daily cases, bringing the total infections to 1,888,144; and with 680 new deaths reported, the nationwide death toll amounted to 66,537, according to the Health Ministry.

Active infections in the country dropped by 17,607 to 645,706 in the last 24 hours, while recoveries grew by 34,495 to 1,175,901.