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apple developer account for sale :In Italy, manslaughter probes worsen vaccine turmoil

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ROME - When alarm about potential side effects of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot halted vaccinations around Europe this month, many people worried this would damage public trust in the vaccine. In Italy, legal action has added to the turbulence.

On March 11, a prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Syracuse placed two doctors and a nurse under investigation for possible manslaughter, following the sudden death of a navy officer just hours after he had received the shot made by AstraZeneca PLC.

Prosecutor Gaetano Bono also ordered the nationwide seizure of tens of thousands of doses of the same batch of vaccine. He told Reuters it was a precautionary measure. But his move angered health practitioners, who said they saw no need for it.

Italy as elsewhere is pinning its hopes on mass inoculations to overcome the crisis after registering some 105,000 COVID-19 deaths -- more than any of its EU partners -- and suffering its worst economic slump since World War Two.

The country's drive to vaccinate the vast majority of its 60 million citizens by September got off to an inauspicious start, hit by slower-than-expected vaccine deliveries and bad publicity for the AstraZeneca vaccine, seen as crucial in the pandemic because it is easier and cheaper to transport than other shots.

Days after the Syracuse case, a magistrate in northern Italy ordered police to impound almost 400,000 shots from a separate AstraZeneca batch after another sudden, post-jab death.

The Italian legal action pre-dates a decision by more than a dozen European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, to halt use of the vaccine after reports linked it to a rare blood clotting disorder in a very small number of people.

The European Medicines Agency said last week a preliminary review suggested the vaccine was not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots, leading most governments to resume its use.

But doctors in Italy said the prosecutors have added to mistrust in a country with an entrenched anti-vaccination movement. Only 62% of Italians said they planned to get a COVID shot, according to a poll by British research company Ipsos MORI published in December.

"How can we be expected to vaccinate millions of people in these conditions?" said Massimo Galli, head of the infectious diseases department of Sacco Hospital in Italy's financial capital Milan.

"The medics that I know are absolutely furious about this absurd situation."

The World Medical Association, which represents physicians from 115 countries, said doctors and nurses elsewhere in Europe did not face the same kind of legal threat.

"In any other country in the European Union, this would not be considered manslaughter," said Dr. Frank Montgomery, the WMA's council chairperson. "Possible side-effects from a vaccination would never lead to the prosecution of a doctor."

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