Italy Starts Swine Flu Vaccination in Nov
Friday, 04 September 2009

Italy will start the campaign to vaccinate the population against A/H1N1 flu in mid-November, with 30-40 percent of the population receiving the vaccine in the first phase.

The launch date was set during the Aug 20 meeting of the permanent working group on territory-based primary care. The meeting decided about the various phases and implementation of the mass vaccination programme, according to Corriere Della Sera, Italy's most famous and important daily.

According to Giuseppe Mele, president of the paediatricians' association FIMP, who was also at the meeting, the first phase will involve the issue of eight million doses of vaccine, to be made available from Nov 15 until the end of December.

The other 16 million doses of vaccine will be distributed from Jan 31. The first phase will take in healthcare professionals and at-risk categories.

This means that the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine will be workers in essential services, including health and care staff in accredited healthcare facilities (staff working at private facilities will be excluded from the first phase), social health facilities, such as rest homes and residential homes, health district staff, at least 90 percent of family doctors and paediatricians, nominated doctors, auxiliary administrative staff, postal workers and Telecom employees.

These groups will be vaccinated by prevention department vaccination centres. One and a half million doses have been allocated for the purpose.

Another round

Before the end of the year, at-risk individuals between the ages of two and 65 will receive seven million doses of vaccine. From Jan 31, the other 16 million doses will be targeted at the 2-27 age group, including the healthy population, with procedures yet to be defined.

There are also plans to increase by 20 percent the active distribution of the classic seasonal flu vaccine, extending coverage over a wider population and to categories other than those reached in previous years. The welfare ministry will issue an explanatory circular based on the evaluations that emerged during the discussion. A uniform registration document for the whole of Italy is being drafted.

Dr Mele reports that a major role in the vaccination of at-risk individuals will be played by territory-based bodies, in line with measures for seasonal flu vaccination in the context of existing decentralised agreements, with the recommendation to extend this to regions where it is not explicitly laid down.

However, the vaccine will not be available in chemist's shops. No instruction leaflet will be printed and the vials will contain ten doses each. The vaccine will also contain the MS 59 booster.

As Dr Mele reveals, however, "Supply of the vaccine is very much lower than demand. The aim is to vaccinate the 40 percent of the population below the age of 65. Distribution across the regions will take account of these proportions, and will be implemented on the basis of the resident population."


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