By Francesco Zecchini
ROME (Reuters)—Italy’s attempt to boost vaccinations by making a contested health pass necessary to go to work is not having the desired effect, data show.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government decreed last month that from Oct. 15 any worker who fails to present the so-called “Green Pass” will be suspended without pay, hoping to convince “no-vax” Italians to have the jab.
Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said when the measure was announced on Sept. 16 that it would trigger such an “enormous” acceleration of vaccinations that its goal could be largely achieved before it actually came into force.
This “announcement effect” has not materialized.
In the week to Oct. 8, some 410,000 people received a first shot, data from the COVID-commisioner’s office showed, a fall of 36% from the week before and the lowest weekly tally since early July.
The government’s announcement initially seemed to trigger a modest acceleration in jabs, which rose by 11% in the first week after Sept. 16 while remaining well below the rate of two weeks earlier.
There was a further pick-up of 15% in the seven days from Sept. 24 to Oct 1, before the steep decline of the last week.
The Green Pass, which certifies the holder has either been vaccinated, recently recovered from infection or tested negative in the previous 48 hours, was originally conceived to ease travel around Europe.
Several other countries have made it a requirement to access venues such as museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants but none have made it mandatory for all employees, making Italy a test case for the continent.
As the Oct. 15 deadline approaches, employers in the industrial north are warning they will face a lack of staff and the heads of some of Italy’s regions say it will be impossible to provide enough tests for workers who refuse to vaccinate.
On Saturday over 10,000 people demonstrated in Rome against the Green Pass and the protests turned violent when hundreds of them, including neo-fascist activists, clashed with police and stormed the offices of Italy’s largest trade union.
Draghi made the pass mandatory despite a successful vaccination campaign and declining COVID-19 infections. On Saturday the government reached its target, set for the end of September, of fully vaccinating 80% of people above the age of 12.