FLORENCE, 14 Aug (APM) - Italy's prime minister has said that he does not believe vaccination against Covid-19 should be made compulsory, Il Giornale reported on Tuesday.
Giuseppe Conte made his comments at a meeting in his home region of Puglia. Asked about the possibility of a vaccine, he said: "I don't think it should be mandatory, but it must be made available"
Conte highlighted expectations that a vaccine will eventually be available to everyone in Italy and in other EU countries. He was asked how soon this might be. Conte replied: "Months, maybe within the year. That's what is hoped anyway."
The prime minister's comments have caused a rift in the governing coalition. According to Il Giornale, former prime minister and leader of the Italia Viva party, Matteo Renzi, was the first to object to Conte's position.
He suggested allowing people to decide for themselves whether to be vaccinated would put Italy at risk of another three-month lockdown. He said: "I believe it should be taken for granted that it has to be mandatory. Vaccines are not optional: if there is a recognised vaccine it will have to be mandatory. Otherwise, what's the point?"
Some people in the Five Stars Movement, another coalition partner, are also reported to want vaccination to be mandatory. Il Giornale said it is unlikely that the dispute about a Covid-19 vaccine will lead to a political crisis but it is another sign of growing divisions in the government.
Rome hospital to start human trials of ReiThera's Covid-19 vaccine
A Rome research centre is to start human trials of a Covid-19 vaccine which has been developed by an Italian biotech, ReiThera, La Repubblica reported on Tuesday.
The Spallanzani hospital says it has recruited more than 3,000 volunteers from different age groups, including many doctors who have been treating Covid-19 patients in recent months. The first group will be vaccinated between 24-26 August, followed by another group between 7-9 September.
If there are no negative reactions, testing will move on to a further three groups which will receive a higher dose. In all, 90 volunteers will be tested, the paper said.
According to La Repubblica, the Italian vaccine project is the result of a protocol signed in March between Lazio's regional governor, Nicola Zingaretti, the health minister, Roberto Speranza, the universities and scientific research minister, Gaetano Manfredi, Italy's national research council and the Spallanzani research centre.
About €8 million euros has been allocated for the trial, €5 million from the Lazio region and €3 million from the ministry of universities and scientific research. The vaccine was developed and patented by ReiThera, which is based in Castel Romano, near Rome.
The Spallanzani research centre intends to update the public on the progress of the study through weekly statements, the paper said.
Infectious disease expert questions Russia's Covid-19 vaccine claims
An infectious diseases expert has questioned claims by Russia to have successfully developed the first registered Covid-19 vaccine, Il Messaggero reported on Tuesday.
Massimo Galli is specialist at the Sacco hospital in Milan, which has played a role in the treatment of patients and R&D of potential drugs. He said: "Until we have confirmed data, it is just a news announcement. It would be great if it were true, but I have to express reservations until we have some evidence."
He noted the difficulties in developing a vaccine adding that the Russians have failed to disclose any data on safety and efficacy of the vaccine. "A series of phases is required to reach this outcome, at least in countries where international treaties on experimentation, validation and evaluation of the potential toxicity of drugs and vaccines are respected," he was quoted as saying.
Vaccinate children against flu as schools reopen - virologist
A virologist has called for schoolchildren to be vaccinated against flu as Italy prepares for schools to reopen in September, Corriere della Sera reported on Monday.
Andrea Crisanti, a microbiologist and director of the Molecular Medicine department of the University of Padua, described it as a crucial moment in the fight against Covid-19.
According to the virologists, the more students who are vaccinated against seasonal flu, the more the health system can avoid confusing flu symptoms with those of Covid-19 when they are nothing to do with it.
"I would recommend telling students who come from areas with (Covid-19) outbreaks to stay at home. Head teachers need to tell them this. The authorities should communicate data about clusters in potential outbreaks in real time," he said.