Private homes for the elderly have expressed concern about the speed of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout among their residents.

One organisation that operates nine homes for the elderly said the process is not as fast as it had expected while another said it had still not received any information on dates.

Last week the government announced it had started the inoculation of the 4,400 people living in 37 facilities across the island.

However, AX Care, which manages the Simblija home in Naxxar, said it has not recieved any concrete information on the vaccine, despite the government announcement last week.

Mention of March for a possible rollout has raised concerns, which they are voicing with the authorities.

“All elderly are vulnerable, irrespective of whether the care home is private or government- owned,” AX Care insisted.

“Residents are very eager to take the vaccine and so are their relatives, but so far, we were unable to provide any information given that we still lack it.”

The process is not as fast as CareMalta expected it to be, said the company that owns and operates a number of residences for the elderly.

It cited “various preparation and logistical work” involved to administer the vaccine and the fact that it was new, expressing the hope that it would be given to all residents and staff members within the shortest time possible.

All elderly are vulnerable, irrespective of whether the care home is private or government owned

Kicking off at the Mellieħa home on Friday, the government’s vaccination programme aimed at all elderly residents across Malta to receive the first dose by the end of March.  

Vaccination at the government Żejtun and Bormla homes, which are run by CareMalta, starts this weekend, on January 15 and 17 respectively, followed by Zammit Clapp Hospital Residential Home on January 31.

Villa Messina, Casa Marija and Casa Arkati, which are CareMalta’s privately-owned homes, start their vaccinations on January 25, February 1 and February 7 respectively.

Health Minister Chris Fearne has previously defended the slow roll-out, saying it was limited by the number of vaccines arriving in Malta.

He said that the island expected to have received 32,000 doses by the end of the month and to have vaccinated 16,000 people – around four per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, a number of representatives from nursing homes for the elderly who form part of the Care Home Operators business section within the Malta Chamber of Commerce launched an appeal to the public health authorities for urgent COVID-19 vaccination within their homes for both their residents and healthcare workers.

“The vaccination process in care homes is taking longer than expected and this is putting our vulnerable even more at risk, especially with the high numbers of positive cases Malta is currently registering within the community,” a spokesperson said. 

Homes have been working round the clock to be virus-free for the past 10 months with the aim of protecting the well-being of the elderly, who first experienced a full lockdown, followed by a partial one and now confinement to their rooms.

Most of the people who had died from the virus were elderly so time was precious, the spokesperson said.

Last year, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said a quarter of Malta’s deaths were care home residents. According to the vaccine schedule programme, the first elderly residents to be inoculated against the virus are those aged 85 and over, while some 2,000 staff members at government, Church and private homes will also be vaccinated, the government said.

Seventy residents and carers at the St Vincent de Paul facility are being vaccinated every day since January 1, and the number is expected to increase to 140 soon, it said.

Meanwhile, those aged 85 and over, who still live in their own homes, should begin receiving appointment letters for their COVID-19 vaccination from this week.

Timeline for vaccination offers

By the end of January:
• all those aged over 85;
• half of all healthcare workers;
• and some 60 per cent of residents in the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly.

By the end of February:
• All other frontliners;
• People over 80; 
• People with chronic illnesses (specified by public health);
• People over 70.

By the end of March:
• All those in elderly homes will have received the first dose.

Weeks to follow:
• Staff at schools and childcare centres;
When all those in the above groups are vaccinated, a fourth cohort of people over 55 will get the jab. 

By the end of April/May:
• Public;
Health authorities say the vaccine timeline would change if more doses are procured or if further vaccines are approved.


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