COVID-19 vaccine rollout hampered in hard-hit northern Italy

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The vaccine rollout in Italy’s hardest-hit region has been badly hampered by faulty booking systems, media reported Monday, with at least one injection center nearly empty at the weekend.

Infection rates remain stubbornly high in Northern Lombardy, and local officials said vaccines have been badly delayed since the beginning of the rollout.

It’s been “a disaster, since the start,” the mayor of Crema city, Stefania Bonaldi, told the La Repubblica newspaper.

“There is a bug in the system that needs fixing.”

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A vaccination center in the provincial capital Cremona was nearly empty over the weekend after people were not informed of their vaccine appointments.

Local officials scrambled to inform locals by calling them manually after looking up phone numbers in the civil registry, and one mayor borrowed a minivan to pick up the elderly from their homes, La Repubblica reported.

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Lombardy’s regional health minister Letizia Moratti pledged Sunday to take “quick and drastic decisions” to address the “unacceptable” situation.

Italy has reported vaccine delays across the country, where close to 105,000 people have died from the coronavirus.

It has administered 7.8 million doses and fully vaccinated just under 2.5 million people – around 4.1 percent of a total population of 60 million.

There have also been major discrepancies across the country in terms of vaccinating the elderly.

The percentage of people over 80 that have received at least one vaccine shot ranges from 36.5 percent in South Tyrol to 2.6 percent in Sardinia, according to the GIMBE independent health think.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who took office last month promising to use “all means” to fight the pandemic, has pledged a massive scale up of vaccinations.

Speaking last week, he admitted that “regions are going all over the place (with vaccinations) and this is not good, not good.”

The government has set a target to triple vaccinations to 500,000 per day by mid-April, and to fully vaccinate 80 percent of the population by mid-September.

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