Italy halts J&J Covid vax roll-out plans


Italy has halted its rollout plans for the US-made Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine just before it was set to begin distribution of the one-dose jab, a government official said.

The news on Wednesday comes after the US suspended the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while investigating into speculations that the jab may cause blood clots, reports Xinhua news agency.

Italy had been scheduled to start using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

Dozens of articles appeared in the Italian media in recent weeks about the impending arrival of the new vaccine, which has a big advantage over the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca already approved for use in that it is also easier to store and transport.

On Tuesday, however, reports began circulating saying the distribution plan would be temporarily halted following worries of blood clots in the US.

A government press official confirmed those reports to Xinhua on Wednesday.

According to a report in Corriere della Sera, 184,000 doses of the vaccine had already arrived in Italy and were being stored at the Pratica di Mare military base just south of Rome.

On Monday, Italy announced it expected at least 2.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to arrive this week,the highest one-week total for vaccine arrivals since they first became available in December 2020.

Before this week’s developments, the US pharmaceutical giant began supplying doses to European countries on Monday with the goal of delivering at least 55 million doses to European Union (EU) member states by June and another 120 million in the three months after that.

There was no announced breakdown to indicate what percentage of the total deliveries were earmarked for Italy.

The disruption of the Johnson & Johnson rollout is the latest in a series of delays for Italy’s vaccine rollout.

Last month, the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was temporarily halted in Italy and around a dozen other EU member states amid similar concerns over blood clots that resulted in two deaths.

In Italy, it was removed from distribution sites for four days before health officials deemed it safe.

As of Wednesday, Italy had distributed at least one vaccine dose to 13.72 million residents, with more than 300,000 people receiving a dose over the previous 24 hours.

The number of fully vaccinated individuals surpassed 4 million on Tuesday, reaching 4.09 million as of late Wednesday, or around 6.8 per cent of the population.

So far, the pandemic has claimed 115,557 lives in Italy, with 3,809,193 infections.