‘Vaccine would be free and voluntary’

Italy’s national Covid-19 vaccination campaign will see the first tranche of 202 million doses to be distributed to some 40 million people in the first quarter of 2021, Health Minister Roberto Speranza stated on Wednesday.

Unveiling the plan before the parliament, Speranza explained that the vaccine would be free and voluntary, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Our goal is to start with no obligation, but (instead) with persuasion and information in order to reach the herd immunity with about 40 million Italians,” he told lawmakers.

According to the minister, the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered to Italy between January 23 and January 26, and “will be stored in 300 points within public hospitals”.

The campaign will start with health care workers and staff, and residents in nursing homes, before moving to vulnerable groups such as the elders — first the over-80s and then those between 60 and 80 years. The next group will be workers employed in essential sectors, including schools.

The Italian army will be directly involved in the distribution of the vaccine. “This is especially true for those (vaccine doses) requiring a standard cold chain,” Speranza said, adding that the army is now planning carriers, modalities and logistics with Domenico Arcuri, the special commissioner for coronavirus emergency.

The campaign will be managed at a central level in the first phase, with a task force identifying all the specific hospitals and facilities where the vaccine will be administered across the country. Mobile health units will be deployed in order to reach the people who are physically impeded to reach the vaccination points.

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