Italy’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Bypassed the Elderly, and More Are Dying

ROME—Thousands of people have been dying each week of Covid-19 in Italy, one of the highest numbers and per-capita death rates in the West.

One factor, according to Italy’s own government: For many weeks, Italy was slow to vaccinate the elderly. While national authorities gave priority to older people and those in nursing homes alongside front-line healthcare workers, regional authorities have given numerous shots to younger workers.

That contrasts with the U.K., where vaccinating the oldest age groups first has contributed to a sharp fall in Covid-19 deaths.

In the last two weeks of March, Italy reported 102 deaths from Covid-19 for every one million inhabitants, compared with 47 in Spain, 28 in Germany and 11 in the U.K. As of the end of March, people age 70 or older represented 86% of Italy’s 107,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19.

“If we had vaccinated those aged above 70 or 75 from the beginning, we would have avoided so many deaths,” said Antonella Viola, a virologist at the University of Padua.

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