Italy now ranks second in Europe for the number of people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the country administered a record 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, authorities said.
"Yesterday was marked by a record number of injections in 24 hours which touched the 600,000 mark while the number of doses administered crossed the 37-million mark," the government body in charge of vaccinations said on Saturday.
"Italy is in second place in Europe in terms of the number of people fully vaccinated, just behind Germany and ahead of France and Spain," it added.
It said Friday's record vaccinations were in part due to an increase in the number of vaccination centers which now stood at 2,666 against 1,500 at the start of March. About 800 new centres will be opened in the coming weeks. Italy's vaccine program was previously criticized for failing to reach the most vulnerable.
According to official government figures, 37.06 million vaccine doses have been administered and 12.7 million people – or nearly 24% of the population aged above 12 – have been vaccinated.
The pandemic has claimed 126,415 lives in Italy where the number of cases and deaths has been falling steadily in recent weeks.
The government has been slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions, relaxing a night curfew and opening up indoor dining in restaurants and bars.