The blow is strong and the fact that it was feared and partly announced does not soften the blow. The AstraZeneca vaccine, on which Italy has staked most of its cards to defeat Covid, is once again in the storm. And the fear in the government is that the impact of the umpteenth turnaround will be felt, not only and not so much on the administrations, but on the inevitable consequences on the confidence of Italians. “The plan does not change and the drug remains safe, but it certainly wasn’t necessary, ”admitted Minister Mariastella Gelmini during the meeting with the Regions.
The new change in the registry category forces the government to reshape in the race an organizational machine not yet perfectly run. And it pushes Palazzo Chigi to accelerate the launch of the communication campaign designed to reconcile citizens with the Anglo-Swedish drug and prevent avalanche defections. The message to be given to the Italians is that AstraZeneca “is a good vaccine” and will help to secure the most vulnerable people. They say that Mario Draghi is not alarmed and that he has reassured the ministers: “This thing about the over 60s does not harm us, it is in line with the choice to run vaccinating elderly people».
In the late afternoon, when the news arrived from Brussels that the EMA has considered plausible – in very rare cases – the causal link between Astrazeneca and thrombosis, the premier studied the counter moves. He met with the president of the EU commission Ursula von der Leyen and, on the internal level, kept in touch with the ministers Speranza and Gelmini, with the commissioner Figliuolo and the head of civil protection Curcio, to whom he asked to meet the presidents of the Regions. Target, reorganize in a sprint a vaccination campaign that in February had focused on Astrazeneca to protect the 18-55 age group, the one for which the serum in the storm is now less recommended.
The second move of Palazzo Chigi was the press conference of the Minister of Health with the leaders of the CTS, designed to reaffirm that “the vaccines are there” and ensure that mass immunization will go on fast. The tconsideration of the 500 thousand doses per day is still far away, but General Figliuolo is confident that “there will be no impact on the vaccination plan”. If even Speranza says he is “not at all displaced” it is because the new indication is “perfectly in line with our vaccination campaign”.
Yet the doubts about the change of pace that does not arrive are now in the public domain e this partly explains Speranza’s strong irritation at yesterday’s summit with his European counterparts, also furious with Ema’s top management. The Italian minister fought to reach a unified decision, but found himself facing the wall of Finland, Denmark and Sweden, oriented to stop the drug. And despite the fact that France, Germany and the Netherlands also asked for greater coordination, everyone made their own decisions.
In the evening it was the presidents of the Italian regions who asked the government to find a unitary solution to the dilemma that risks jamming the vaccination campaign. “We want clear indications so as not to proceed in no particular order”, Giovanni Toti made himself heard. Luca Zaia gave voice to the questions of his colleagues: «Which doctor will take responsibility for inoculating AstraZeneca to under 60s? Will we have more vaccines, or not? And how do we deal with teachers and priority categories under 60, do we give Pfizer? “. A heated meeting, also because many presidents are wary of the CTS scientists’ “goofy” recommendations and fear that the government will end up throwing the responsibility of the deadlock on their shoulders.
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