With Malta’s elderly, vulnerable and frontline population currently being vaccinated in a race against time and the COVID-19 virus, Europe’s latest approved jab is set to boost the island’s progress within days.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday evening, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that the first doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine – which only received the official green light from EU regulators last week – will be arriving on the island within days.
The vaccine – which has found itself at the heart of a controversial UK-EU feud – will only be used on people aged between 18 and 55.
“From the information AstraZeneca provided us, the vaccine is effective and no patient in their trials got hospitalised with COVID,” Fearne said. “It seems as though it’s safe for all ages, but according to what they told us, their vaccine trials are based on under 55s. Until we have different scientific information, Malta will start giving it to 18 to 55s.”
This doesn’t mean that Malta’s 18 to 55-year-olds will only get the AstraZeneca jab, though, Fearne clarified, with that depending on the progress of the roll-out program when it comes to each and every citizen’s specific case.
“We expect the first doses to arrive in Malta within 10 days of their authorisation by the EMA, and despite what’s happening, we’re insisting with AstraZeneca to give us our first batch of doses at the start of next week,” Fearne said.
Now that AstraZeneca has officially been added to the equation, Malta’s initial vaccine roll-out plan could’ve gotten the boost many were hoping for.
“Our original plan was based on Pfizer and Moderna alone, so if AstraZeneca comes next week, we’ll be able to accelerate our timelines,” Fearne said. “Things are going as planned. In fact, we’re a few days ahead of our target.”
Of course, it’s still too early to say for sure, but this could eventually mean that Malta’s non-vulnerable population – which is currently slated for a summertime vaccination – might actually be inoculated a tad earlier.
Meanwhile, the islands will be getting even more doses from other suppliers… ending up in a situation where we would have “enough vaccines to vaccinate Malta and Gozo twice”.
“I can announce that Moderna agreed to increase our doses by 170,000 – therefore we’ll get 270,000 doses of Moderna in total,” Fearne continued. “Add to that the 650,000 from Pfizer and the one million from AstraZeneca.”
But it seems like Malta already has plans for the extra doses… and it’ll be charitable, profitable, or a bit of both.
“Yesterday, I was speaking to the regional director of WHO Hans Kluge, to agree from now to use our excess vaccines on those who won’t even get their first dose by the end of the year,” Fearne announced. “We can donate them or sell them, while ensuring we have enough stock in case we need a third booster dose.”
As the world rushes to vaccinate as many people as possible, it looks like Malta is still charging ahead when compared to its EU peers… but there’s definitely always room for improvement.
Addressing this, Fearne said Malta should soon be increasing its daily inoculation rate from 1,300 doses to 2,500, effectively doubling the nation’s vaccination effort.
As of today, Malta will also start offering vaccinations to people aged 16 and over who need to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party announced in a statement that the government had accepted its proposal to use family doctors in the vaccination program for more efficiency. The PN went on to push for an immediate agreement with pharmacies around the island to be in place for when more jabs start being produced and delivered to Malta.
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