Two cases of blood clots reported to the Malta Medicines Authority have "no confirmed link" to any COVID-19 vaccine, Charmaine Gauci has said, urging people to ignore social media rumours.

One of the cases was reported by a patient who had taken the AstraZeneca vaccine, while the second was from someone given the Pfizer jab, the Superintendent of Public Health said. 

"When you have reports of certain side effects, these are investigated and these were not cases confirmed correlating to the vaccine," she said during her weekly update, stressing that all vaccines on offer remain safe to use.

They were among 119 reports on vaccine side effects made to the Malta Medicines Authority: 77 after Pfizer and 41 after AstraZeneca. So far 232,335 vaccines have been given out across Malta, including 65,205 second doses. 

The majority of side effects were "minimal", she said, including fever, fatigue, coughs and some migraines.

Earlier this week the European Medicines Authority said blood clots were a "very rare" side effect of the AstraZeneca issue and the benefits outweighed the risks. No such concern has been raised about the Pfizer jab.

Gauci began her weekly briefing on Friday by reassuring the public about Malta's decision to continue with its rollout of AstraZeneca to all those under 70.

"We are being very rigorous when monitoring side effects," she said. "The Medicines Authority is in contact with the doctors and it will investigate the cases."

She warned people against listening to "rumours via social media" and said the health authorities were "giving out all information".

Watch the briefing live below

Gauci repeated the view of the European Medicines Authority, which said the benefits of the vaccine outweighs the risks. 

She also ruled out allowing people who have one dose of AstraZeneca to choose a different vaccine for their second dose, as is the policy in France.

"The second dose will have to be AstraZeneca," she said.

Who is contracting COVID-19?

She said the impact of the vaccine could be seen on Malta's daily COVID-19 case numbers: the seven-day moving average is now 55 cases and those involving people aged over 80 continue to drop. 

The majority of cases are aged between 20 and 24 years old, with the average age of someone with COVID-19 now at 38.4.

There are now 64 people in hospital, including 15 in the intensive care unit. There is just one case in Gozo General Hospital, and none in intensive care there. 

Those being treated in intensive care are aged 45-75. The average age at death is now 70.9. 

Where is COVID-19 being spread?

The majority of cases continue to come from households, gatherings and work places. 

However in the past weeks, since numbers of households allowed to gather has been reduced to two, the percentage of cases from homes has dropped from 65 per cent to 49 per cent. 

The biggest impact has been on social contact, such as gatherings, which have dropped from 24 per cent of cases to 15 per cent. 

The percentage of cases from work places has dropped from over 10 per cent to eight per cent, she said, encouraging employers to continue to offer teleworking.

Just two cases came from the airport - one person who arrived from Bulgaria and another from Italy.  

Asked about the easing of measures, Gauci said details on visits to hospitals will be given at a later stage and that weddings would be allowed from June, but only "if things continue in the same way."

She also criticised "irresponsible" lockdown rule-breakers, saying it was "unfortunate" when "the majority of the the people are following the rules and understand we're in a pandemic".


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