Panatto et al.
Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) in Italy: Still a long way to go
Microorganisms. 2022; 10(2):464. doi:10.3390/microorganisms10020464.
Italy is considered to be at low risk for TBE, and cases are limited to only some regions in the northeastern and central part of the country. It should, however, be mentioned that in Belluno (Veneto), the notification rate is nearly 6/100,000 inhabitants per year, which can be assessed as a high-risk area according to WHO criteria.
The first TBE virus infection has been reported in Tuscany in the 1970s and additional foci have been disclosed in the 1990s in northern provinces (Trentino Alto Adige, Belluno, Veneto). The number of reported TBE cases has increased over the last 20 years from 12 cases in 2000 to 55 in 2000.
The Italian National Vaccination and Prevention Plan for 2017–2019 recommends vaccination for residents and at-risk workers in endemic areas and for those who visit forests and rural environments up to an altitude of 1400m in these areas.
In Friuli Venezia Giulia, vaccination has been offered free of charge to the whole population since 2013, and the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano have provided vaccination free of charge to all resident at-risk workers since 2018.
However, the vaccination rate in Italy is yet low. Even in high-risk areas, it is not higher than 10% to 40%. For Friuli Venezia Giulia, the vaccination rate was as low as 5% in 2016. Only the TBE vaccine based on strain Neudörfl is marketed in Italy. New approaches to increase the vaccination rate have been started during the COVID-19 pandemic in the province of Belluno in 2020 (called drive-through). However, TBE vaccine uptake remains suboptimal in endemic areas. Raising awareness of TBE and the benefit of vaccination is critical to increase vaccination coverage in Italy.