Italy's new vaccination plan widens cover

More vaccines to be offered to all age groups

(ANSA) - Rome, January 20 - Italy's national healthcare system will widen the number of vaccines offered to different age groups across the country after the conference of Italian regions on Thursday gave unanimous approval to the national vaccines plan for the 2017-19 period. The new plan offers more vaccines as well as a number of free options not included in the previous plan.
    It also evens out the national offer: a number of vaccines previously provided for free only by a few regions will be now offered across the country.
    Following are details of the new plan, divided by age group.
    CHILDREN: in the first year of life, free vaccination will be provided against meningitis B, which can be lethal, and rotavirus, which causes very serious gastroenteritis that can have serious consequences in young children. Vaccines against meningitis B (which is currently not free in most regions), will be provided with the first dose at three months and subsequent doses to follow.
    In the second year of life, vaccination against chickenpox will be provided for free (it is currently free only in eight regions) as the disease can in some cases have complications and require hospitalization. The vaccination shot is given at 13-15 months together with the vaccine against the measles, rubella and the mumps, with additional doses to follow.
    ADOLESCENTS: the Human Papillomavirus vaccine (Hpv), which is today free for teens, will be extended to males in order to eliminate the virus which is the most frequent cause of cancer at the cervix and mouth.
    Teens will also be offered the ACWY vaccine that protects against four types of meningitis - A, C, W and Y.
    SENIORS: the Herpes Zoster vaccine has been introduces for free. It has been estimated to lower by 65% neuralgia cases, one of the most frequent and debilitating consequences of the herpes.
    The pneumococcal vaccine will also be offered by all regions.
    It protects against pneumonia and meningitis.
    The plan also provides for "renewed efforts" to promote flu shots for citizens over 65 years of age.
    The new vaccines are in addition to those already offered: the vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis, polio, hepatitis b, tetanus, haemophilus influenza, as well as the vaccine against the measles, mumps and rubella and meningitis C.
    The plan also sets as a target to maintain the country polio free, eliminate cases of measles and rubella and promote vaccination campaigns.
    Italy's Higher Health Institute (ISS) has warned that Italy has registered a significant decline in vaccination coverage over the past few years with vaccination rates below 95% for polio, tetanus, dyphtheria and hepatitis B.
    The percentage has dropped further for vaccinations of measles, mumps and German measles, with coverage as low as 86%, the ISS has said.