Italy fears crowds will infiltrate vaccination campaign – POLITICO


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ROME – The Italian mafia is diverting vaccines from those who need them most, lawmakers fear.

As Italy struggles to mount its failing vaccination campaign, the parliament’s anti-mafia committee is examining whether crime syndicates are redirecting vaccines to their friends at the expense of the elderly and vulnerable, especially in the south where they often exercise control over health authorities. .

The continued rise in COVID-19 deaths in Italy, as the rate has slowed dramatically in neighboring countries, has led some, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, to blame young people for standing in line to be vaccinate.

In a press conference on Thursday evening, Draghi said, “With what conscience does someone jump in the queue, knowing that it leaves another person vulnerable, who is over 65 or over. fragile, and who has a concrete risk of death? “

The think tank of the Institute for International Policy Studies (ISPI) estimates that 8,000 lives in Italy could have been saved since January if vaccines had been targeted more on the elderly.

But there are growing concerns that the mob will use their power to get people vaccinated in advance. The number of health workers – part of the first wave of people to be vaccinated – has increased suspiciously, especially in areas like Puglia. Administrators, communications consultants and even builders working at healthcare sites received their favorites after being added to the priority list.

And a vague interpretation of the directives of the Ministry of Health has allowed the 20 regions of Italy, which are in charge of health care, to give blows to well connected individuals and groups such as politicians, lawyers, judges and journalists. Three regions in the south – Sicily, Calabria and Campania – have distributed as many or more of these priority doses than they have to people over the age of 80.

At least 1,000 suspected queue jumpers are under investigation by various police forces and prosecutors in Italy, including 150 in Palermo alone. The mayor of Corleone in Sicily has resigned after being accused of abusing his position to obtain vaccines for himself and his advisers.

This prompted the parliamentary anti-mafia committee to demand the names of those vaccinated. Mario Giarrusso, a member of the commission and longtime anti-Mafia activist, told POLITICO he had requested lists of names from several regions in the south with suspicious numbers.

He said: “People are getting vaccinated who do not fall into any priority category specified by the government, especially in some areas where there is a high density of mafia, and we suspect that the mafia is handling the vaccinations. “

In areas like Calabria, authorities have often been brought under central government control due to mafia infiltrations, Giarrusso noted.

But even in areas where the Mafia wields much less influence, the vaccine rollout has not prioritized older citizens, experts say.

Members of the military and prison inmates were given priority status, along with more than a million school and university workers, although most of the teaching was transferred online.

According to Matteo Villa, a researcher at the ISPI think tank, the reason for the government’s broader strategy failure is the lack of clear guidelines.

Like other countries, Italy has given priority to people over 80, homeworkers and health workers. But under pressure to be a leader in the vaccination race, Italy has been slashing healthcare workers at a much faster rate than the over-80s. “All healthcare workers were vaccinated at the end of January. But it did so at the expense of the elderly,” Villa said.

At the end of January, seven out of ten vaccines were intended for children under the age of 60. And as of March 31, Italy was well below the EU target of 80% of those over 80 having received at least a single dose.

Even now, more under 60s have been vaccinated than over 80s, according to official figures.

Draghi complained on Thursday that the number of health workers was continuously increasing and ordered that the focus be on the elderly.

“We need to prioritize immunization for all people over the age of 70,” he said.

Draghi appointed Francesco Figliuolo, army general and logistics expert, to get the vaccine deployment back on track. But with Italy recording 718 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the biggest daily increase since December, it continues to count the cost in lives.

Giarrusso, the anti-Mafia senator, has vowed to take on the mobsters. “We need to check who skipped the line. These people remove the vaccine from those whose lives are in danger. “

This article is part of POLITICOPremium Police Service: Pro Health Care. Whether it’s the prices of medicines, EMAs, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and more, our specialist journalists keep you up to date on the topics driving the healthcare policy agenda. E-mail [email protected] for a free trial.

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