Those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine will wait eight to ten weeks before receiving the second dose, the Health Ministry has confirmed.
Malta has begun procuring consignments of AstraZeneca vaccines which it will be administering to non-medical front-liners.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses, which are being administered over three weeks, the two doses of AstraZeneca will be administered over a period of eight to ten weeks, which yields higher vaccine efficacy.
A new study has suggests that dosing intervals of less than six weeks only yields a 54.9% efficacy while a 12 weeks or more has an efficacy of 82.4%.
The new evidence has also been backed by a panel of experts at the World Health Organisation.
“In light of the observation that two-dose efficacy and immunogenicity increase with a longer interdose interval, WHO recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between the doses. If the second dose is inadvertently administered less than six weeks after the first, the dose does not need to be repeated,” the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation said.
However, an issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine is its efficacy against COVID-19 variants, most notably the South African variant, which it has proven to be ineffective against.
South Africa has scrapped plans to distribute AstraZeneca following the trial data and instead “will be distributing to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock,” according to South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
Earlier this week, Malta recorded its first case of the South African variant following a gene sequencing test. Health Minister Chris Fearne didn’t reveal any information about the case other than it was an isolated incident.
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