Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for everyone over the age of 50 with the drastic measure taking effect immediately.

All workers 50 and up need to present a health certificate showing that they are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus, or face unpaid suspension. Unemployed residents over 50 will also have to be vaccinated, though it is not yet clear what penalties they may face.

The measure will take effect immediately and will run until June 15th

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet approved the measure Wednesday, as Italy has already made vaccination mandatory for teachers and healthcare workers in October, with all employees now needing to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Draghi told the cabinet, according to his spokesperson:

“Today’s measures aim to keep our hospitals functioning well and at the same time keep open schools and business activities.

We are targeting the age groups which are most at risk of hospitalization in order to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives.”

However, members from the right-wing Lega party have been openly critical of the mandate, characterizing it as “without scientific foundation” considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalized with COVID are well over 60.

It is believed the mandate will affect approximately 13% (3.6 million) of the roughly 28 million people in Italy over the age of 50, with 6% having received only one dose and 7% remaining unvaccinated.

Italy has one of the highest vaccination levels in Western Europe, with around 74% of Italians fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data.

A report by Reuters:

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