The Government of Italy Wednesday issued a decree making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all those over the age of 50, it was announced. Out of Italy’s 59 million people, 28 million fall over the age of 50.
The measure makes Italy one of very few European countries to make vaccination compulsory. Austria announced in November it would make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory from February in a bid to tackle low vaccination rates.
“The government voted unanimously to give the green light to a new decree that will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all over 50s,” ANSA reported.
“We want to slow down the curve of contagion and encourage Italians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during a cabinet meeting.
“We are working in particular on the age groups that are most at risk of being hospitalized, to reduce pressure on hospitals to save lives,” he added.
The new decree compels people over 50 who do not work to get vaccinated, and those who do work to get a vaccine pass, known as super green pass, which will be necessary for people over 50 to access their workplaces -both private and public- as of Feb. 15 and until June 15.
Italy has reported record Covid infections in recent days with another 189,000 cases registered Wednesday.
Effective Jan. 10 a “super green pass” will be required to use public transport and access hotels, restaurant terraces and gyms.
Italy was the European country first hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and still has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 138,000.
As per the new measure, those in the workforce above 50 years of age will have to show a health pass proving they have either been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19, or face suspension from work. Before the new decree, unvaccinated workers could keep their jobs only if they tested negative every two days.
Italy's vaccination campaign has been relatively successful with 78 percent of the population vaccinated, higher than the EU average. Around 7% of Italians over 50 are unvaccinated, but in some areas, the number reaches 11%.
Italy follows Greece, which approved mandatory vaccines for over 60-year-olds in November while Austria has said it will introduce fines for the unvaccinated from February.