Italy approves Covid vaccine for 5-11 year olds: what you need to know

Italy has approved the use of Covid vaccines in children aged 5-11 and will start administering doses later this month. Here's what we know about how the vaccine rollout for children will work.

Italy will begin vaccinating 5-11 year olds with the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in December.
Italy will begin vaccinating 5-11 year olds with the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in December. Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italy’s medicines agency AIFA approved the use of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine in children aged 5-11 on Wednesday evening, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued its approval last Thursday.

“The available data show a high level of efficacy and no warning signals are currently highlighted in terms of safety,” AIFA said in a press release on Wednesday.

In a statement released on its website last week, the EMA said that of 1,305 children who received the vaccine in trials, three developed COVID-19, compared to 16 out of the 663 children who received a placebo – meaning that the vaccine was 90.7% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in this study.

The EMA’s human medicines committee concluded that “the benefits of Comirnaty in children aged 5 to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19,” the agency said.

Here’s what we know so far about how Italy will administer the vaccine in children.

When will 5-11 year olds in Italy be able to get their first vaccine?

Italy’s health authorities are expected to start administering vaccines to 5-11 year olds before Christmas.

Most regions will likely begin vaccinating December 20th and December 25th, according to the news daily Corriere della Sera.

Franco Locatelli, the head of the Italian government’s Scientific Technical Committee, told Sky TG24 that doses for children will be available in Italy from December 23rd. 

When will bookings open for this age group?

It’s anticipated that most regions will open bookings for 5-11 year olds at some point on Thursday.

The booking will need to be made through the website of your local health authority, as health services in Italy are managed on a regional basis.

The Local has compiled a list of links to local health authority websites for each region and autonomous province in Italy here. 

It’s hoped that vaccinating 5-11 year olds will allow schools in Italy to remain open as much as possible.

It’s hoped that vaccinating 5-11 year olds will allow schools in Italy to remain open as much as possible. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

READ ALSO: Italy to impose ‘super green pass’ Covid restrictions on unvaccinated

Where will children be vaccinated?

Vaccines for 5-11 year olds will be administered in the existing vaccination hubs across the country where people aged 12 and up have already received the vaccine.

“We plan to use all available resources where feasible: so we’ll also open up to paediatrician’s offices and pharmacies,” Italy’s undersecretary of health Pierpaolo Sileri is reported to have said.

How will the vaccines be administered to children?

Each child who receives the vaccine will need to be accompanied by a parent.

Children aged 5-11 will receive the EMA’s approved dosage of 10µg, or micrograms, as opposed to the 30µg dosage given to those aged 12 and up.

The second dose will be administered three weeks after the first.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

Will the vaccine be made mandatory for children?

The vaccine is not mandatory for children.

Those under the age of 12 in Italy are not required to have the Italian Covid health certificate or ‘green pass’, or its successor, the ‘super green pass’ (available only to those who are vaccinated against or recovered from Covid) to access any events or facilities.

Will children who have recovered from Covid be offered the vaccine?

Yes – though it’s unclear at this stage whether they will be offered one dose or two, reports Corriere della Sera.

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Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

Italy has extended the availability of a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot as infection rates surge across the country.

Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

The Italian health ministry announced that fourth Covid vaccine doses, or second booster shots, will soon be available to all residents aged 60 and over, as national medicines regulator Aifa gave the green light on Monday.

Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday that doses could be administered to this age group “immediately”, as Italy “moves in line” with recommendations from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“In the coming hours, immediately, already today, we will adapt our guidelines, our circulars and our indications. We will immediately open up administration in our regions.

“We mustn’t think that the battle against Covid is won. It is still ongoing and we must keep the level of caution high,” he said.

The health ministry confirmed in an update on its website that second booster doses were now recommended to “all persons aged 60 years or older, provided there has been an interval of at least 120 days since the first booster dose or the last post-booster infection (date of positive diagnostic test)”.

READ ALSO: Fourth jabs and isolation: Italy’s plan to control Covid cases this summer

The availability of fourth doses will vary by region, as each local health authority is responsible for managing the timing of its own vaccination campaign.

Several regions, including Lazio (around Rome) and Lombardy (around Milan), said on Monday that they would allow over-60s to book their fourth jabs within the coming days.

A fourth dose can be booked as usual, via pharmacies or family doctors, and via regional booking websites where available. (Find more information in a separate article here.)

Speranza didn’t say when second booster shots may be rolled out to all age groups, stating only that “a new vaccination campaign” is set to begin in September.

Health authorities have previously said they are not planning to make a fourth dose mandatory, though an annual “top-up” shot is likely to be offered.

Until now, only over-80s, care home residents, and clinically vulnerable patients have been eligible for a fourth shot in Italy.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

But health experts are also urging the government to speed up the administration of fourth jabs to these vulnerable groups: uptake remains far lower than hoped so far, with 78 percent of over-80s not getting theirs yet.

With the coronavirus infection rate now at its highest level since February, and the number of hospitalisations expected to keep rising in the coming weeks, the health ministry has not said whether it plans to bring back any recently-scrapped health measures.

For now, the government’s strategy appears to be focused on maintaining the relatively high rate of vaccination coverage in Italy: 90 percent of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated with at least two doses, official figures show.

Find out more about booking a booster shot in Italy in a separate article here. See the government’s ‘prenotazione vaccino‘ (vaccine booking) website for links to regional authorities’ appointment reservation platforms.