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Italy starts administering Covid booster shots to people over 60

Rome, Oct 10 (IANS) Italy has started administering Covid-19 booster shots to people over the age of 60, just 24 hours after the procedure was authorised by the country's Health Ministry.

The decision followed the official green light earlier this month by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which stated the booster shot could be considered for all people over 18 after six months from their second dose, reports Xinhua news agency.

"In the light of EMA's latest deliberation, we can go ahead with the third vaccine dose to people of all ages with a fragile immune system and to all people over 60, always six months after the second dose," the Ministry said on Saturday.

In September, Italy had started administering third doses -- of either Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines -- to immuno-compromised people such as transplant patients, elderly people over 80 and residents in care homes, and healthcare workers.

The third dose will be offered as an option, since vaccination against coronavirus remains strongly recommended but not mandatory in Italy.

Meanwhile, the pandemic situation appeared "under control," and the curve of coronavirus cases kept decreasing gradually, according to the latest weekly monitoring by the country's National Health Institute (ISS) updated to October 3.

The incidence stood at 34 cases per every 100,000 inhabitants.

The data for hospital bed occupancy were also encouraging, according to Giovanni Rezza, Director of the Infectious Diseases Department at the ISS.

"We register a 4.9 per cent and 4.2 per cent of bed occupancy in normal Covid-19 wards and intensive care units, respectively, which is well below the critical thresholds," Rezza explained in a video statement.

So far, the vaccination campaign in Italy has reached 79.9 per cent of the target population (over 12), with over 43 million people fully immunised, official data showed.

To date, Italy has registered 4,698,038 Covid-19 cases, with 131,274 deaths and over 4.4 million recoveries.