In Palermo, Sicily’s capital, 80 percent of the hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated, and a vast majority of those in the I.C.U. have not received a vaccine, said Dr. Renato Costa, the city’s Covid emergency commissioner. Similar rates are observed throughout the region.
“If we had a higher vaccination rate,” said Dr. Costa, “our hospitals would be emptier.”
Local doctors said the drop in vaccination rates during the month of August was related to the summer holidays, a time when it is more difficult to distribute shots to the region, which has among Italy’s lowest income and education levels.
Over the past weeks, doctors have scrambled to reach and vaccinate Sicilians.
They gave out olive oil, pistachio spread and tickets for Palermo soccer matches to those who agreed to get vaccinated. They provided shots at beaches and pizzerias. To inoculate older and marginalized residents, they brought doses to a local taverna in the low-income Vucciria neighborhood in Palermo and to the Zen, the housing project north of the city.
Last weekend, doctors drove vaccine trucks to a carnival celebration near the city of Catania, and on Monday, they installed a vaccination center inside an ice cream shop in Palermo.
The new restrictions followed an increase in hospitalizations, with a large majority of cases involving unvaccinated people.