A Maltese nurse who works at Mater Dei hospital will be the first person in Malta to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, a day after the first 10,000 doses arrive on the island.

Chris Fearne announced details of the rollout during a news conference, just minutes after the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for inoculations to start across the EU.  

After the first batch arrives on Saturday, a further stock will arrive on December 28, before Malta eventually receives 500,000 doses, he said. Another 100,000 of a vaccine developed by Morderna will arrive in January.

At 9am on Sunday, the nurse who works at Mater Dei's infectious diseases unit will be the first person to receive the vaccine. Staff at the intensive care units, emergency and COVID-19 wards will also receive it before it is rolled out across healthcare workers in the rest of the hospital.

Watch the news conference live below

Fearne gave details on the timeline of the vaccine:

  • December 27 - Mater Dei nurse is to be become the first person in Malta to receive the vaccine before it is rolled out to the IDU, ITU emergency ward, and wards caring for COVID-19 patients;
  • December 28 - healthcare staff at primary health care and swabbing centres will begin to be immunised;
  • December 29 - staff at Gozo General hospital will be offered the vaccine;
  • December 30 - staff at Mount Carmel, St Thomas, Boffa and Good Samaritan hospitals will get the jab;
  • January 1-6 - workers and residents at the St Vincent de Paule home for the elderly will be offered the vaccine;
  • January 7 -  the first letters will go out to patients over the age of 85, with a date, place and time for them to receive the first and second vaccine. 

New batches of doses will then arrive weekly, before everyone is eventually offered the free jab.

Health authorities have launched a helpline number, 145, which will be active from Monday, for anyone who has questions about the vaccine. 

Those invited to take the jab can rearrange an alternative date, if they cannot attend for any reason. 

"We are appealing for all members of the public, once they are offered the vaccine to please go and take it," the health minister said.

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said side effects of the vaccine include fever, tiredness and headaches but that they do not last long. 

The vaccine isn't approved for children under the age of 16. Pregnant woman, breastfeeding mothers and women who plan on getting pregnant in the next two months are also advised against taking it.

Answering concerns about allergies, Gauci said that only those who have previously shown serious reactions to vaccines should avoid the vaccine. People who are allergic to certain foods or penicillin can be inoculated against COVID-19.

New virus variant not in Malta

The update came as Malta joined other EU countries in banning flights to and from the UK, which is struggling to control a new variant of the virus, that is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissable.

The flight ban will kick in on Tuesday with exceptions for returning Maltese residents and citizens, who will be tested on arrival and ordered in to mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Fearne said that so far there have not been any cases of the new strain in Malta but that a sample of positive cases will be tested for this variant and any other new ones that emerge. 

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