Only 918 of the over 200,000 vaccine jabs received by Malta until last week had yet to find their way into arms or been kept aside for second doses, according to new data on the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Figures tabled in parliament by Health Minister Chris Fearne show that, as of the week ending March 21, Malta had received a total of 203,820 doses.

Of these, 101,451 doses were first jabs and the same number were kept in storage for second doses. The health authorities say they always store second doses once a first has been administered to ensure all patients are fully inoculated.

The number of second doses administered amounted to 44,483 by March 21.

That leaves a surplus of just 918 doses.

Fearne told CNN this week that Malta makes an effort to administer, or keep back for second doses, all vaccines it receives.

However, the details supplied in parliament provide the only insight into the availability of doses on the island. Malta has not yet informed the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) how many vaccines it has received.

All other member states have provided detailed information on the total doses distributed by each of the three manufacturers whose vaccines have so far been approved for use in the EU: AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer.

The ECDC runs a vaccine tracker that provides real-time monitoring of vaccine roll-out across the bloc.

The only information available about Malta is the number of doses administered.

The ECDC said Malta was “in the process of submitting a refresh” of the data. The missing numbers should soon be available, a spokesperson said.

This explains why the island is rushing ahead and has the highest uptake rates in Europe

“Data submitted to the ECDC are constantly refreshed and ECDC is regularly in contact with national authorities to improve quality and completeness of national data for a situational assessment that is as up to date as possible.”

The government has yet to comment on the matter.

The availability of doses in Malta came under the spotlight recently after Austria’s Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz accused some EU countries, including Malta, of possibly having signed “secret contracts” with vaccine companies to receive more vaccines than they are entitled to under EU rules.  

Fearne has rubbished the suggestion, insisting Malta has been proactive in procuring all the doses available to it.

This, he has said, explains why the island is rushing ahead and has the highest uptake rates in Europe.

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