In the war against a global pandemic, you need as many weapons as you can get. But now, as Malta continues to build up its impressive medical arsenal, what has been touted as an imminent “game-changer” by health authorities is taking much longer than expected and promised.
Over two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was approved for distribution within the European Union and despite online rumours of the jab having arrived in Malta, the vital vaccine is still nowhere to be seen.
The situation is of course not restricted to our Mediterranean Island.
Earlier this month, Reuters ran an exclusive report about how the pharma giant was “under stress” to meet the EU’s supply goal a whole week before it was even approved by the bloc. Meanwhile, just this week, US authorities were left fuming once again at “logistical complications and regulatory delays” which led to four million doses of the vaccine being delivered next week – a massive gap considering J&J promised to deliver 20 million shots to the federal government by the end of this month.
Whenever they were contacted for a comment on the matter, representatives from Johnson & Johnson have constantly pushed back against claims of inefficiency, with spokesperson Jake Sargent saying just four days ago that the company will still deliver the promised vaccines to the States by the end of March. Having said that, there aren’t a lot of days left in March.
From particularly large stocks of other jabs to a comparably speedy roll-out, Malta is still in a very good position when it comes to its national vaccination plan. However, this news does put a disappointing dent in certain promises made mere weeks ago.
Just 42 days ago, for example, Health Minister Chris Fearne very confidently announced that “in March, we’re going to have the Johnson & Johson vaccine. This means that, thanks to this vaccine and all the others, we’ll be in a much better position come April.”
“The initial plan was to open vaccinations to the general public towards the end of May,” Fearne had continued. “But since we’re already two weeks in advance and are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March, we can approach even further.”
Now, with April less than 100 hours away and the first Johnson & Johnson batch nowhere in sight, that very confident promise is obviously going to have to take a backseat.
Malta’s strength, thankfully, lies in its lack of dependency on one single vaccine.
Thanks to its high levels of procurement of pretty much every approved vaccine out there, Malta still finds itself in a nearly uniquely good position when it comes to its roll-out.
In fact, even if the islands do not eventually receive the full 250,000 Johnson & Johnson jabs initially allocated to us by the end of 2021, we’re still looking at a vaccine stockpile that exceeds the total population.
Meanwhile, today marks an important day of milestones in Malta’s ongoing battle against COVID-19.
Just this morning, Minister Fearne was back with another announcement: by today, 170,000 vaccine doses would have been given.
— Chris Fearne (@chrisfearne) March 26, 2021
More importantly, however, 50,000 people have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, marking over 10% of the population.
At the end of the day, it’s this last percentage which will determine when Malta truly hits herd immunity. And with this being projected to be anywhere between 60 and 70%, the current estimate predicts Malta hitting herd immunity sometime around the second half of August.
However, the extent to which this latest delay of the previously-touted “game-changing” Johnson & Johnson vaccine will affect that timeline is yet to be confirmed.
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