Healthcare Basics

Vaccinations in Italy

From mandatory childhood vaccines to the optional shots for older people, this article covers all there is to know about vaccinations in Italy.

Italy vaccination

By Chiara Caporale

Updated 16-3-2024

Whether you’re on a Roman holiday or you’re moving to Italy permanently, it’s important to be aware of the required shots ahead of time, which may be daunting. However, vaccinations in Italy are clear to understand and easy to access.

Learn more about the available vaccines and the vaccination schedule in the following sections:

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The Italian vaccination system

Vaccines have been in Italy since the end of the 18th century when, in 1799, physician Luigi Sacco tested the cowpox vaccine on himself and a small number of pediatric patients. Since then, the country has implemented several mandatory vaccination policies to keep its population safe.

Elderly people receiving the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy (Photo: Simona Granati – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Italian Medicines Agency (Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco – AIFA) approves and regulates all medications, treatments, and vaccines.

Meanwhile, multiple government bodies oversee the Italian national vaccination program, specifically the Ministry of Health (Ministero della Salute) and the Higher Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità – ISS). The latter is Italy’s main center for medical research, disease control, and technical-scientific advice on public health.

Generally, Italians trust the healthcare system. However, many have a skeptical attitude toward vaccinations. Accordingly, a 2019 Eurobarometer report shows only 78% of Italians believed that vaccines effectively prevent infectious diseases (compared to 85% of all Europeans).

Likewise, a quarter of Italians do not rate recommended shots as essential and just over 45% of the population thinks vaccinations are only important for children. Moreover, a third of the population (32%) believes that vaccines weaken the immune system or cause the disease they protect against (34%).

Especially people over the age of 50 are hesitant to get optional vaccines. For example, only 56% choose to get a standard flu vaccine. Similarly, just 14% of people received the pneumococcal vaccine, and a mere 10% protected themselves against herpes zoster or shingles.

Insurance coverage of vaccinations

Presently, Italy has two levels of healthcare insurance coverage: public and private care. The public option is called National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN). It ensures that all citizens have universal access to healthcare services. Additionally, it also covers mandatory immunizations plus some of the optional ones.

Still, the SSN does not cover all voluntary vaccines, especially those that fall outside specific age ranges. For instance, the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is only free for women and girls up to the age of 25. After that, it costs €87.

Instead, you will pay out of pocket or get private health insurance to cover it. Insurance providers include:

Vaccinations for children

The ISS vaccination schedule is unquestionably the best reference point for understanding what vaccinations children will need and at what age they are required to get them.

First, you must register with the SSN and choose a family doctor or pediatrician before you can access vaccinations for your children.

Of course, you don’t pay for general practitioner (GP) visits or the shots, because the SSN covers children’s healthcare.

Generally, Italian families start vaccinating their little ones from three months old and continue throughout childhood. Therefore, children will receive mandatory shots against the most common diseases and parents can also request optional vaccinations. The mandatory and elective shots are free because the SSN covers both types.

Healthcare professional is administering a COVID vaccine to a child, who is held in their mother's arms. Their sister are sitting nearby in a stroller, holding a balloon animal and looking a bit bored.
Photo: Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images

Medical practitioners recommend specific adult vaccinations but these are not mandatory. For example, if you did not have the HPV vaccine as a child, you can choose – or refuse – to get it as an adult.

First, the required vaccinations (vaccinazioni obbligatorie) in Italy are:

VaccineDiseases and infections it protects againstNumber of doses
dTapIPV vaccineDiphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polioTwo
Hexavalent vaccine (DTaP/IPV/HepB/Hib)Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type bThree
HPV vaccineHuman papillomavirusTwo or three
Quadrivalent vaccine (MMRV or MMR+V)Measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpoxThree

Second, are the recommended but voluntary shots:

VaccineDiseases and infections it protects againstNumber of doses
COVID-19 vaccineCOVID-19One
dTapIPV vaccineDiphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polioOne every 10 years
HPV vaccineHuman papillomavirusTwo or three
Influenza vaccineCommon fluOne every year
Meningococcal ACWY conjugate vaccine (MenACWY)Bacterial meningitisOne or two
Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB)Bacterial meningitisFour
Meningococcal C conjugate vaccine (MenC)Bacterial meningitisTwo
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)Pneumococcal diseaseThree
Polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) Pneumococcal diseaseTwo
Rotavirus vaccineRotavirusTwo
Zoster vaccineHerpes zoster (shingles)Two

Other additional vaccinations

Evidently, your vaccination schedule might change if you are:

  • In a particular line of work
  • At high risk of infection
  • Have a weak immune system

In that case, you might get a vaccine earlier or more often. Indeed, consult your doctor or access the ISS vaccination schedule to stay updated.

Vaccination schedule in Italy

The following is a recommended schedule for mandatory and optional vaccines:

AgeMandatory vaccinationsOptional vaccinations
3 monthsFirst dose of Hexavalent vaccineFirst dose of MenB vaccine
First dose of PCV
First dose of Rotavirus vaccine
4 monthsSecond dose of MenB vaccine
Second dose of Rotavirus vaccine
5 monthsSecond dose of Hexavalent vaccineSecond dose of PCV
6 monthsThird dose of MenB vaccine
11 monthsThird dose of Hexavalent vaccineThird dose of PCV
13–15 monthsFirst dose of Quadrivalent vaccineFourth dose of MenB vaccine
First dose of MenC vaccine
6 years oldSecond dose of Quadrivalent vaccine
First dose of dTapIPV vaccine
12–18 years oldSecond dose of dTapIPV vaccineTwo or three doses of HPV vaccine
First dose of MenACWY vaccine
Second dose of MenC vaccine

Besides, adults can also get the following voluntary vaccinations at any time:

  • COVID-19
  • Herpes zoster
  • Common flu
  • PPSV (Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine)

COVID-19 vaccinations

Since these became widely available, anyone registered with the SSN can access COVID-19 vaccines, throughout Italy free of charge. Of course, you can visit the website of the Ministry of Health for any recent COVID-19 updates and vaccine mandates.

Vaccinations for pensioners

As said before, adult vaccinations are not mandatory in Italy. However, doctors strongly encourage anyone over 65 to get vaccinated against:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Common flu
Mature adults waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Padua, Italy. All are wearing protective face masks and are sitting three feet apart. An older woman is sitting in the foreground, hand clutching a filled out questionnaire.
Photo: Roberto Silvino/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Usually, the GP will administer any vaccinations, but the nursing staff at local hospitals or care facilities can also do it. Otherwise, pharmacies can also provide certain shots, although this is less common.

Similarly to all required and recommended vaccines, the shots for senior citizens are free when they register with the SSN.

Vaccinations for special groups

Indeed, your medical practitioner may recommend additional vaccinations depending on your situation. For example, women can opt for the HPV vaccination that offers protection against cervical cancer. Pregnant women can also get the Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (Dtap) vaccine to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough and protect the fetus.

Doctors also recommend ancillary vaccinations for at-risk patients with chronic health issues.

Travel vaccinations in Italy

Obviously, you might need vaccinations before traveling to Italy, depending on your country of origin. For instance, if you are traveling from the U.S., you are advised to get the following:

  • Routine vaccinations ( e.g., chickenpox, flu, diphtheria, herpes zoster, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, and whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Rabies (if you plan on being around wild animals)
  • Tick-borne encephalitis (if you engage in outdoor activities in areas ticks are likely to be found)

Of course, if you travel to another country, you might also need specific vaccinations (e.g., against yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, or cholera). So, check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministero degli Affari Esteri) website or consult with your GP before your travels.

Generally, the SSN does not cover travel vaccinations and costs can range up to €100 unless you have private health insurance.

Useful resources

  • Ministry of Health – official website of the Italian government body responsible for public health
  • ISS vaccination schedule – overview of all mandatory and optional vaccinations in Italy
  • SSN – official government website where you can register for the SSN