Italy achieves daily COVID-19 immunization target despite slow vaccine deliveries

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Italy has hit its target of administering 500,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in a single day, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday.

The milestone was reached on Thursday. Officials had originally hoped to pass it mid-month but had to push this back mainly because of supply delays and persisting doubts over shots produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

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“Vaccines are the real way out of these very difficult months,” Speranza wrote on Twitter.

The Italian government said that as of early Friday, some 19.4 million vaccinations had been carried out, with 5.8 million people having received their full vaccine cycle - just under 10 percent of the total population.

The figures are in line with the European Union average.

Matteo Villa, an analyst who has been tracking Italy’s vaccine campaign, said it would be extremely hard to keep on hitting a daily total of half a million inoculations in the next few weeks because of continued shortages.

“We probably won’t be doing 500,000 jabs each day until the end of May,” said Villa, a researcher with the ISPI think-tank.

At the start of the year, Italy had forecast it would receive some 57.2 million doses in the second quarter of the year, but Villa said current figures suggested that it would receive just 36 million.

Pfizer looked set to deliver 25.3 million of these, far more than it had originally pledged, Villa said. By contrast, the other manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, all looked set to provide far fewer doses than first hoped.

German biotech firm CureVac had been expected to send 5.4 million doses of its new vaccine this quarter, but it has not yet won approval from European regulators.

Francesco Figliuolo, a military logistics expert who is Italy’s coronavirus commissioner, said on Thursday he hoped 60 percent of the adult population would be vaccinated by mid-July, with herd immunity of 80 percent cover forecast for the end of September.

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