Italy stops administering AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine to people under 60, the Italian government announced on Friday in the midst of a drop in the country’s infection level, which meant the risk of distributing the vaccine to younger people was judged to outweigh the benefits.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been under control following reports of rare and severe blood clots in those who received the vaccine in Europe.
Younger Italians who have already received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will get another shot at their booster dose, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, an army general responsible for Italy̵
The announcement was the latest in a series of reverse decisions on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University. Some doctors fear that back and forth could further undermine confidence in the vaccine and hamper Italy’s vaccination campaign.
Government officials and AstraZeneca “communicated very very poorly,” Roberto Burioni, one of Italy’s leading virologists, said in an interview. “We are losing confidence in even the most enthusiastic people.”
In Italy, as in other European countries, the roll-out of AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been stoned. After the European Union approved the use in January, Italy recommended using it only for people under 55 years of age.
The country then raised the threshold to 65 on 22 February and then dropped the age limit on 8 March. One week later, Italy became one of a number of European countries that completely suspended the use of the vaccine due to concerns over reports of rare, severe blood clots affecting a small number of recipients.
Italy resumed use of the vaccine on March 19, but about two weeks later, after the European drug regulator reported a possible link to the rare blood clots, the government recommended reserving the vaccine for those over 60 years of age.
However, some Italian regions, in a hurry to vaccinate as many people as possible, began offering AstraZeneca vaccines to younger people during the “open day” and “open night” events that skipped the government’s priority schedule. Tens of thousands of young Italians signed up. In May, the board of scientific advisers gave the government new light for the “open” initiatives.
But some doctors raised objections, and the news spread about an 18-year-old girl who had been given a dose in northern Liguria was hospitalized with thrombosis and then died. On Friday, the government said the recommendation to give the AstraZeneca vaccine only to people over 60 had now become “mandatory”.
Franco Locatelli, president of Italy’s Superior Health Council, said the changes to the guidelines had always been dependent on the development of the available scientific evidence, but also linked to the level of viral circulation.
Dr. Locatelli maintained that “vaccines saved many lives” and that AstraZeneca’s shots, widely used in the UK, gave results “which we were jealous of.”
Mr. Burioni, the virologist, said he was touched by the enthusiasm of the young people who hurried to be vaccinated in the open days to protect older Italians. “But now many of these young people and many of their parents are very worried,” he noted.