ROME (Reuters) -Almost 10 months after the first Italian patient tested positive for the new coronavirus, Italy on Sunday vaccinated the first residents against COVID-19.
Three health workers at the Rome Spallanzani hospital were inoculated shortly before 0700 GMT with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a statement by the commissioner for the epidemic Domenico Arcuri said.
"The vaccine went very well and it was an exciting, historical moment," 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini told state-owned television RAINEWS24.
"It is the beginning of the end and I hope to be the first of over 60 millions of Italians".
Italy on Thursday became the eighth country in the world to exceed 2 million officially recorded cases. It has reported 70,909 deaths, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.
The vaccine will be free of charge and health workers and elderly people will be the first to be offered the voluntary inoculation.
Hungary and Slovakia began their vaccination campaigns on Saturday with other European Union countries joining Italy in rolling out the shots from Sunday, as the pandemic surges across the continent.
Around 9,750 doses have already arrived in Italy and another 470,000 are expected to arrive from next week, the health ministry said.
"Today is a symbolic day which must give the idea of the beauty of Europe that has bought the vaccines for everybody and distributed them," Commissioner Arcuri said.
To aid the roll out of the vaccine, temporary solar-powered healthcare pavilions will pop up in town squares around the country, designed to look like five-petalled primrose flowers, a symbol of spring.
(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)