Malta is considering a Proof of Vaccination document to be handed to all those who take the COVID-19 vaccine, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said on Wednesday. 

She said the country's health database already includes a feature for this purpose and that the authorities are investigating ways to make the certificate digital and secure. 

Talks are currently being held in the EU in the hopes that member countries have a common document, recognised by all. 

"We see that many people are actually willing to take the vaccine already and people are asking for proof of their vaccination programme," Gauci told Times of Malta's Ask Charmaine programme.

"We are having an ongoing discussion between member states to see if we can harmonise these certificates so that if people are asked to present them in terms of travel, it will be recognised by other European countries as well."  

Proof of vaccination will be especially useful for travellers. Last month, Australia's largest airline, Qantas said that once the vaccine is widely available, it may require passengers to be immunised before they travel. 

Gauci was speaking on a special edition of Ask Charmaine, answering readers questions on the COVID-19 vaccine, which is due to arrive in Malta in the first week of January. 

Children, pregnant women will not be vaccinated 

In reply to questions from readers, Gauci said that children will initially not be vaccinated. 

Research so far has focused on adults and older people, she said. Few children have been infected by the virus and most of those who had, did not have any major complications except those with other medical conditions.

She also said pregnant women, or those who think they may be pregnant, are being advised not to take the vaccine at this stage. The same applies for those who plan on getting pregnant in the coming three months.

"These vaccines haven't been tested on pregnant women and the vaccine companies are advising that people who are pregnant or suspected to be pregnant should not take the vaccine," she said.

Asked how long immunisation will last, Gauci said "we really do not know" but research showed the immunity from vaccines lasts longer than natural immunisation.

Vaccine not available privately

Gauci ruled out making the vaccine available to buy in private hospitals, confirming that all production is being bought in bulk by governments.

"The vaccines will be available from government. They will be free of charge for everyone. They will not be available from the private sector for people to buy," she said.

"If anyone offers you a vaccine and they are not the government, then it is not a true vaccine." 

She underlined the safety of the vaccine, saying the European Medicines Agency is being very rigorous in its studies after three clinical trials.

The Pfizer/Biontech vaccination is expected to be given the green light by the EMA on December 29. 

Earlier this week, Health Minister Chris Fearne gave details on Malta's vaccine strategy. Health workers, those aged over 85 and staff and residents of homes for the elderly will be the first in line.

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