1,400 receive vaccine, ‘herd immunity by the summer’

Doctors lament ‘slow’ rollout

Sun, Jan 3rd 2021, 02:36 Last updated on 3/1/21

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Nurse Rachel Grech was the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Malta. Photo: DOI

Around 1,400 people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus in the first week in Malta, as the authorities target reaching ‘herd immunity’ by early summer.

The number of people vaccinated is expected to increase to 2,000 a week in the coming days and then increase exponentially to 5,000 jabs weekly, according to the health authorities.

By mid-February, the vaccination should have been administered to all frontliners and those over 85 years before it is rolled out to others.

“We are on target, it’s the way we planned it,” Health Minister Chris Fearne told Times of Malta.

By the middle of this month, the minister said an estimated 100,000 additional vaccines are expected from Moderna, which is easier to distribute than the Pfizer jab.

A spokesperson for the health authorities said the plan is for the country to achieve so-called herd immunity by the beginning of summer. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely.

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2,000 weekly vaccinations in the coming days, then 5,000 a week
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However, Medical Association of Malta president Martin Balzan warned that significant efforts needed to be made to ensure the vaccine was administered in a timely manner.

“If the objective of the prime minister is to be back to business as usual by the end of May, our infrastructure for handing out the vaccine is still lagging.”

Balzan pointed out that the Health Minister had said Malta was receiving consignments of 10,000 doses, meaning it had so far received 20,000. He said only a fraction of that amount had been administered so far.

“We should be giving out vaccines at the same rate as they are being supplied. The freezer should be empty by the time the next consignment arrives,” he told Times of Malta.  Addressing this point, the spokesperson for the health authorities said that within three weeks, vaccination would be distributed at the same rate at which they were being received from abroad.

Balzan said he expects all of MAM’s members to be vaccinated in four weeks’ time. He warned the association would take all the necessary action to protect them if this target was not achieved, describing it as a health and safety issue.

Malta started rolling out its vaccination on December 27 along with other EU states. The rollout numbers of all states pale in comparison to Israel, which has vaccinated more than one million people against COVID-19 in just over 10 days, in what experts believe is the world’s fastest-ever vaccine drive.