ROME - Italians began to receive COVID-19 vaccines Sunday after the first batch of nearly 10,000 doses arrived. Italians hope that the massive vaccination campaign will soon bring an end to lockdowns and return them to their normal lives.
A 29-year-old nurse was the first to receive the vaccine at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases. Health workers at hospitals across the country were next.
The government’s plan is for health staff and workers and elderly residents in nursing homes to be the first in line. Those over 80 will follow, then 60- to 70-year-olds, and those who suffer from chronic illnesses.
Next will be the general population, starting with school staff, police forces and prison workers. With more than 50% of Italians now saying that they will get inoculated, and that number on the rise, the hope is that in nine months, Italy will reach herd immunity with 70% of the population vaccinated, a total of 42 million people.
The country's first allocated 9,750 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Salvo D'Acquisto military base late on Christmas night. A van with the first batch of vaccines was escorted by police cars to the Spallanzani hospital in Rome.
Italian soldiers loaded other boxes of the vaccine onto military cargo planes for distribution all over the country. Five planes took off from the military base of Pratica di Mare, near Rome.
Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, said that with the arrival of the first batch of the vaccine, Sunday would be a symbolic and emotional day.
Arcuri said the first doses arrived after a long night. He said Italians are seeing the first ray of light, but the road is still a long one before day arrives. It is important, he added, for this symbolic vaccination to begin and this campaign will continue over the next months to lead the country out of this emergency.
Italy is planning to set up pavilions in its artistic squares to dispense vaccines. The primrose-shaped pavilions were designed by architect Stefano Boeri who said his team had picked the flower, which heralds the arrival of spring, as the symbol of the campaign, whose slogan is “Italy is reborn with a flower.”
There will be around 300 distribution sites in Italy, rising to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is at its peak.
Boeri, famous for designing Milan’s Vertical Forest skyscraper, said the pavilions would be powered with solar energy and built with recyclable materials such as timber and fabric. He did not charge for his work.
More than 71,000 people have died in Italy since the start of the outbreak in February.