Italy’s coronavirus vaccination campaign started on Sunday, as five health workers at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital were inoculated with the vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“Today is a symbolic day that must give the idea of the beauty of Europe, which has bought the vaccines for everybody and distributed them,” Italy’s special commissioner for the emergency Domenico Arcuri said on Sunday morning.
The vaccination campaign -- which started on Sunday across Europe -- comes almost 10 months after the first Italian patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus in northern Italy.
Around 9,750 vaccine doses have already arrived in Italy and another 470,000 are expected to arrive from next week, the Health Ministry said.
The vaccine will be free of charge and health workers and elderly people will be the first to be offered the voluntary inoculation.
“This infection has changed our lives. This is an enormous progress which was unexpected […] It's the most efficient way to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, the first doctor vaccinated at Spallanzani hospital.
The total number of virus cases in Italy has topped 2 million. The number of fatalities in the country exceeded 71,000, the highest toll in Europe.
"Today Italy is waking up. It’s the #VaccineDay. This date will be remembered forever,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted on Sunday.
Experts said that herd immunity will be reached when 80% of the population is vaccinated.
“This is the first light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to resist a few other months,” said Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
“It’s not ended yet and rules have still to be respected.”
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