The health authorities are resisting pressure to allow quarantine-free entry to European Union vaccine certificate holders who are only eligible for one dose of a COVID-19 jab.
Some EU countries, including Italy, Germany, Spain and France, only administer a single shot of a two-dose vaccine if a person has recently recovered from the virus and, therefore, has some level of immunity.
But it is not recommended by the EU drug regulator and the Maltese authorities also say it is not acceptable.
The issue was first raised this month when a Maltese man vaccinated in Portugal was unable to return to visit his sick mother because he was only eligible for one dose.
Times of Malta has since been contacted by others who are having to face a costly 14-day hotel quarantine.
Maltese international artist Nicholas Agius Darmanin said his partner, who is based in Estonia, was forced to quarantine when she arrived in Malta.
Having contracted COVID-19 earlier on in the year, she had only been given one dose of a two-shot vaccine.
Despite having an EU certificate, she was told that she would have to stay at a quarantine hotel and pay around €1,400 for the stay, which only includes one meal per day – a small breakfast.
“At the airport, when we asked for help, I was told nobody could help. I understand there is a virus pandemic but this is not the way to deal with it,” he said.
And while insisting the authorities need to do more, Agius Darmanin also called on airlines to do a better job when vetting documents at check-in gates.
“Airlines are not checking documents properly. If they do this, it will avoid people getting on flights and having them incur extra costs,” he said.
For Agius Darmanin, the biggest issue is the lack of direction from the authorities that fail to reply to e-mails sent in through the official channels.
“I tried to get in touch with the vetting department but I received no replies in three weeks. All I got was auto-generated replies that were of no help,” he said.
“The authorities are putting stringent rules and treating people like they’ve done something wrong and yet they do not even have a good support line.”
For Martina Virone, who is from Sicily but whose boyfriend lives in Malta, the prospect of meeting up with her loved one in August is becoming increasingly unlikely since she has only been given one dose of the vaccine.
“I frequently visit Malta because my boyfriend lives there but because of these absurd rules imposed by the Maltese government, I won’t be able to meet him in August,” she said.
“I’m not travelling for fun but to stay with ‘my family’. Does it mean that I will never be able to go to Malta without quarantine because of this,” Virone queried.
“I’m vaccinated and I want to be treated as vaccinated person.”
A health ministry spokesperson said: “Due to the prevailing scientific evidence, Malta is not accepting one dose certificates.”
Asked to explain what the scientific evidence entails, she pointed to European Centre of Disease Control (ECDC) guidelines,
According to a technical report released by the ECDC last week, there is not enough data on the long-term protective immunity.
“Studies of single-dose regimens of Comirnaty, Spikevax and Vaxzevria in previously infected individuals indicate antibody and cellular immune responses are comparable to naïve [not subjected to the virus] individuals who complete the two-dose vaccine regimen,” it said.
“However, data on the long-term duration of protective immunity are sparse.”
It urged caution and said there was no evidence on “clinical endpoints, such as risk of laboratory-confirmed infection and symptomatic disease, for previously infected individuals receiving just one dose of a vaccine intended as a two-dose regimen.”