Outcry in Italy at call for more vaccines for rich regions

File photo. Letizia Moratti, at that time outgoing mayor of Milan, in a 2011 photo. Moratti sparked outrage by saying that the rich regions should receive more coronavirus vaccines. [Matteo Bazzi/EPA/EFE]

The idea that richer areas should get a bigger share of coronavirus vaccines sparked an outcry on Tuesday (19 January) in Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

The proposal came from Letizia Moratti, the aristocrat wife of a late oil baron, who this month was appointed health chief of the northern Lombardy region, which includes Milan.

Writing to the government coronavirus crisis commissioner, she said vaccines should be allocated to regions based not only on population density, but also on gross domestic product (GDP), local impact of the pandemic and levels of mobility.

“It is not about giving more vaccines to richer regions… but in helping Lombardy’s recovery you would automatically help the recovery of the whole country,” she said in the letter, parts of which media published.

Lombardy — which already has received the largest share of doses on account of being the most populous region — would tick all Moratti’s boxes.

It is has the highest regional GDP and the worst coronavirus record, accounting for almost a third of the Italy’s more than 82,500 virus dead.

And it is one of the few Italian regions that went back into a lockdown as part of new coronavirus restrictions enforced since Sunday.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza was quick to dismiss Moratti’s idea.

“Everybody has a right to be vaccinated, regardless of the wealth of the place where they live,” he said, stressing that health was a constitutionally-guaranteed public good and “not a privilege for those who have more”.

Vincenzo De Luca, leader of the southern — and poorer — Campania region, which includes Naples, called Moratti’s proposal “one step away from barbarity”, and urged her to retract her “ill-thought remarks”.

Italy has so far administered more than 1.15 million doses of the vaccine, more than other European Union nations.

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