Covid vaccines, is the campaign in Italy really slowing down?

In summer, the decline in doses and administrations should be very slight, but the acceleration phase seems to be over. It has to do with the discarded vaccines, the hesitant and the search for missing over 60s

(photo: Mat Napo/Unsplash)

On the continuation of the vaccination campaign a bit of chaos seems to have been created, between politics and communication issues, between the commissioner structure of the general Francesco Paolo Son and the Regions. The object of the dispute, as the chronicles tell, is the alleged slowdown of the administrations: announced by the regions with a lot of suspensions, postponements and interruptions already in place, but at the same time denied by the same Son, who on the Corriere della Sera refuses to talk about delays.

But how are things really and, essentially, who is right? As we will see, this is a rather complex situation, because first of all we should agree on what to mean by the word “slowdown”. According to official data, however, nothing has changed since about ten days does it up here Wired we had tried to estimate the end of the vaccination campaign, which today ranks at September, probably towards the end of the month.

First: the absolute numbers

According to what has been communicated on several occasions by Figliuolo (and by no one doubted), during the month of July a total of 14.5 million doses of messenger rna vaccines, of which 12.1 million from Pfizer and 2.4 from Moderna. Which corresponds, compared to the month of June, to a decrease of 800mil of doses, ie al 5% less of supplies. That it is reasonable to describe the transition from 15.3 million doses to 14.5 as a real slowdown, rather than a substantial stabilization, opinions are mixed.

These doses should then be added – without considering the question of stocks inherited from the past months – the administrations AstraZeneca homologous, as a fraction of those who have received the first dose of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine will certainly want to continue with the same formulation for the second injection as well. Including these administrations, according to Figliuolo it is reasonable to hypothesize a total of doses administered in July equal to 15.5 million, i.e. 500 thousand a day.

Second: the interrupted progression

Rather than pressing your foot on the brake, causing effective deceleration, what is already happening these days seems to be more like taking your foot off the accelerator. Metaphorically aside, the data already clearly shows what it seems to be finished that phase of progressive acceleration which has characterized the vaccination campaign so far. If from January to June more doses were administered than the previous month, with an average daily increase of 70-80 thousand doses from one month to the next, now the augmentation phase it definitely seems over. Then you can discuss whether you are in the presence of one flat curve or one slight decrease, but the real news is quite indisputable interruption of the ascent phase.

Thinking in terms of the seven-day average, for example, the peak was reached in the second week of June with 586 thousand doses per day, while from the end of June onwards the data are rather stable between 500 thousand and 550 thousand doses. If we had maintained the average trend of the last few months we should be well above 600 thousand doses, instead the prospect for the coming weeks seems to be that of flatten out close to half a million.

Third: not just a question of supplies

In determining a change in the course of the vaccination campaign, not only the slight drop in deliveries of messenger RNA vaccines affects, but also a series of other equally (or perhaps even more) impacting factors. A first element, of course, is the substantial one discontinuation of use of AstraZeneca vaccines and the drastic reduction in the administration of formulation Janssen: being able to rely essentially on just two vaccines instead of four, it is difficult to further accelerate the campaign. To this we must add that until some time ago the arrival of the vaccine CureVac, then skipped because of the poor effectiveness of the highly anticipated European messenger rna vaccine.

But not only. A slowdown in the vaccination campaign, especially in terms of new bookings, is also attributable to the need to administer the second dose of Pfizer and Modern to those who have already received the first, as well as to satisfy people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca and prefer to continue with the heterologous vaccination.

And also in many regions – given the data of the campaign held so far – it is considered a priority intercept and convince to vaccinate people over 60 still missing: they are beyond 2.5 million in all, of which 345 thousand over 80, 780 thousand between 70 and 80 and 1.6 million between 60 and 70 years. In percentage terms, the result achieved so far is considered very good over the age of 80, with coverage of 92% with at least the first dose; average for people in their seventies, which are 87%; scarce for the 60-year-olds, at 81%; still insufficient for the fifties, stuck at 72%. In short, it seems more reasonable to focus on more people weak e fragile than to proceed with an avalanche vaccination of the youngest.

Finally, there is also an effect of perceived slowdown (or announced) for purely matters policies. Basically, moving forward with the vaccination campaign is today a source of pride for the regions, which therefore have set very tight and progressively accelerating vaccination calendars. Therefore, faced with the substantial stagnation of supplies, in several cases we find ourselves having to review plans and proceed with postponements and suspensions of bookings, often scheduled in recent weeks with a time frame that has proved too optimistic. It is no coincidence that the question of the alleged delay in deliveries has also become – or above all – an issue of political confrontation.

What the regions have announced

Each region, faced with today’s supply prospects, reacted differently. Putting together information reported by the media on the basis of communications from individual regional health systems, it is expected, for example, that an interruption of new bookings of one or two weeks for the Lazio, while theEmilia Romagna has raised the possibility of blocking reservations for under 50s until mid-August and the Puglia has for now postponed them by a week (but there could be a further postponement). L’Umbria has completely suspended the administration of the first doses, while the Tuscany has announced a one-week suspension for bookings in August and September. There Campania reported a 38% drop in supplies, against which there are still no specific measures, while the Lombardy it is among the regions that has not formalized any changes to the vaccination plan, even if the possibility of a suspension of bookings has already been announced.

In all cases, however, the rationale is keep the vials in order to administer the second doses with the right timing. So until you are guaranteed to be able to cover both the first and second doses, you give priority to the latter by sacrificing the others. However, everyone agrees that the situation is and will remain fluid, both in terms of the number of doses entering our country, and in terms of how distribution among the different regions. Because even fine details such as anticipating or postponing a regional supply by a few days can make the difference in practical terms for the management of flows in individuals vaccination centers.

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