An 18-year-old Italian girl has died from a rare form of blood clot two weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca jab in Northern Italy, and a 34-year-old woman, from the same region, is in a coma.
Local media reported the initial investigation into the teenager’s death showed she suffered from low blood platelets, a condition the European Medical Agency has linked to rare blood clots in combination with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
It is unknown whether she declared her condition before she received the vaccine at an “open day” last month.
Giovanni Toti, the regional governor of Liguria, said last week that Aifa, the national pharma regulator, was investigating a direct connection with the jabs.
On Friday evening, Italian officials said AstraZeneca vaccines will be banned below 60 years of age and over 1m people under 60, who were awaiting their second dose, will be inoculated with mRNA vaccines such as BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna instead. The head of the government’s Covid taskforce, Franco Locatelli, told a press conference it was reasonable to believe mixing the vaccines would not be detrimental, on the contrary it might be “advantageous” in terms of effectiveness.
Italy’s regional governments have been promoting vaccinations for young people since the end of May in their efforts to boost total immunisations and encourage summer tourism as the academic year draws to an end.
While Aifa said in April AstraZeneca should “preferentially” be administered to people aged 60 and above, many older people shunned the vaccine and the regions used tens of thousands of leftover doses on younger people.
Immunologist Antonella Viola said “offering AstraZeneca to young people had been a mistake”.
Nino Cartabellotta, of the scientific think-tank Gimbe, said on Thursday the data available suggested mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna, should be reserved for people below 50 years of age while AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson should go to older people.
However, regional authorities said they had received no clear indication from the national government.
In northern regions, such as Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, bookings have been open to adolescents from the age of 12 since last week.
Open days, when thousands of young people have been inoculated without pre-booking their jab, have drawn widespread criticism from politicians and experts who warned there was a lack of data on the effects of the vaccines on adolescents. Others said vaccines should not be wasted on people belonging to low-risk age groups.
A total of 40.5m vaccines have been administered in Italy with 25 per cent of the Italian population fully immunised.
Government figures show that 283,000 doses have gone to people aged 12-19.
Health minister Roberto Speranza said the government was awaiting input from its advisers before making a final decision on banning AstraZeneca for certain age groups.