October 30 - Italian competitors competing at next year's Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver next year are to be vaccinated against swine flu, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) announced today.


Giovanni Petrucci , the President of CONI, took the decision after meeting with Italian Deputy Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio.


He said: "The urgent and absolute priority for CONI is the vaccination of the Italian delegation for Vancouver 2010."


Italy is set to take up to 350 athletes and officials to the Olympics and Paralympics.


Fazio said: "Naturally we don't want the Italian delegation to be decimated [by the flu] and so we will honour a request by the Italian Olympic Committee asking us to vaccinate all our athletes."

Italy has reported at least six deaths related to swine flu over the past two months.


Petrucci said: "Ours is a category that is at risk, but we don't want to spread alarm where there isn't any.


"The commission that was created between the Minister and the President of the (CONI Medical) Council will monitor the situation and any possible alarm. W


"We shall began with Olympians and then we shall see [for other sports and events]."


Italian health experts have predicted that the swine flu epidemic will peak between December and January, with 1.5 million to 3 million cases.


A vaccination campaign beginning on November 15 will immunise up to 40 per cent of Italy's 60 million people, the country's Health Ministry has announced.