Italy – The pandemic paradox of Bo

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“Do you know how many people I vaccinated this morning? Nineteen. Do you know how many of them were not from my municipality? Seventeen…”.

The 64-year-old Giuliano Martini, mayor and at the same time the only pharmacist in Bo, in northern Italy, did not hide his despair the other day about the attitude of his fellow citizens.

And this, in a city that became a symbol of the fight against the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic.

It was in Bo that 22 months ago, the first death from COVID-19 in Italy was recorded: a 77-year-old retiree.

The very next day, the area was declared a “red zone” and put on full lockdown, surrounded by the army.

It became an international reference point and a live experiment on how the coronavirus spread could be controlled by scanning diagnostic tests and self-isolation of cases.

Now, Bo is back on the front pages of the Italian press, but for a completely different reason.

Short memory

Despite its recent bitter experience, the small town currently has one of the highest rates of vaccination in Italy.

In the Veneto region to which it belongs, it is the second least immunized area against COVID-19.

Even with the appearance of the “Omicron” variant, 17.6% of its residents over the age of 12 – almost one fifth of its total population – have not yet received at least one dose of vaccine, nor have they made an appointment.

The rate is five points above the national average, in one of the most vaccinated countries against coronavirus in Europe.

They are considered one of the most powerful nuclei of “No-Vax”, as health professionals call them.

“So far, taking into account even those who will get a dose of vaccines by the end of the year, we are stuck at 82.4%”, the mayor of Bo observes with concern.

“I really believe that we will never be able to reach the 90% target set by the special commissioner in charge of the vaccination campaign, General Francesco Filiuolo,” he said with a sigh.

The reason, he explains jokingly, is because “most of these 500 people who have not even done the first dose, including entire families, consider the vaccine to be some kind of devil on earth, having apparently graduated from…” Facebook University ”».

Misinformation vs science

Apart from the social media and conspiracy theories that seem to have found suitable ground (and) in this corner of the rich Italian north, the distrust of the unvaccinated inhabitants of Bo is said to have also fueled the attitude of the parish priest and, above all, , one of a total of three doctors covering the area.

He often harshly criticized the government measures on Facebook, writing comments such as that the vaccine “(they say) is not experimental, but adds new side effects to the package.”

Or that “if after a year and a half you still believe in the state of emergency, the emergency is you”. Or that “whoever decided to make the health pass mandatory at weddings is brain dead”.

Eventually, in mid-November, the doctor resigned and – according to Domenico Crizara, president of the medical association in Padua, province of Veneto – is now at the center of an investigation into a breach of medical ethics and ethics, facing the possibility be available for up to five months.

“Vaccines are a sensitive issue,” he told La Stampa. Luca Rochetto, one of the two doctors who remained at Bo.

“One would naturally expect that, in a place that experienced such an experience, there would be a willingness to be vaccinated. But the opposite is happening. “

“It would be enough to compare the epidemiological data between this period and last year to understand the effectiveness of the vaccine,” says the mayor-pharmacist Dr. Martini.

“Unfortunately, however, there is no worse deaf person than someone who does not want to hear.”

Today, the small town of Bo – with a population of less than 3,500 – ranks 18th with the highest number of cases in Padua.

In her case, “we should rather do a sociological, rather than a clinical study,” observes Dr. Piero Realdon, coordinator of the local social and health services in Padua.

“To be precise,” he says with a dose of sarcasm, but also frustration, “we may even need an anthropologist.”

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