Italy’s vaccine drive runs up against a sacred institution: summer vacation.



ROME — As Dr. Mario Sorlini sits patients down in a vaccination center near the badly affected Italian town of Bergamo, he explains a potential complication of the coronavirus vaccine.

The second dose, he tells patients with terror-stricken faces, will fall on a date during the summer holidays.

“‘But I’ll be in Sardinia then,’” he said that some had responded with distress. Others moan about hotel rooms they’ve already booked. Some, he said, get up and leave.

For months, Italians have hungered for the vaccines that would give them safety, freedom from lockdown and a taste of normal life. After initial pitfalls and hurdles, the vaccination campaign is finally speeding up, but it is heading smack into the summer holidays that are sacred for many Italians and prompting fears among officials that a significant number would rather get away than get vaccinated.

“I am certain that many, after such a hard year, will risk delaying the vaccine” until after the summer holidays, said Renata Tosi, the mayor of Riccione, a beach town that is so identified with summer flings that it lent its name to a recent vacation anthem. That could create a significant danger next autumn, Ms. Tosi wrote in an open letter to the region’s president.

“The Second Shot Blocks Vacation,” read a headline in Messaggero Veneto, a newspaper in northeastern Italy, echoing concerns in papers, websites and social media accounts across the country.

An estimated 20 million Italians — mostly 40- and 50-somethings — face the prospect of getting their second shots in the middle of July or worse, in the riptide that is the Italian August, which pulls people out of cities and into swelling seaside towns.

This year, people have sought vacations with such a vengeance that tourism operators have started using the term “revenge travel” to describe the way Italians are trying to get even with the cruel months of lockdown. Surfing the web for holiday homes has become the new doom scrolling.


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