The first batch of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has made its way to Malta although no dose will be administered just yet.
The vaccine, which provides full immunity against COVID-19 in a single dose, was set to start being used this week. But following rare reports of blood clots in vaccinated patients in the US, the manufacturer said it would be delaying shipments to the EU.
The European Medicines Authority (EMA) is currently looking into the blood clot incidents and is expected to provide its position on the matter in the coming days. Until then, the EMA said it “remains of the view that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects”.
According to sources, the batch that arrived on the island on Friday will not be used, in line with what is being done in other EU countries. Instead, the batch will be stored and will start being administered once cleared for use by the EMA.
The vaccine can be stored in a fridge at between 2°C to 8°C for a single period of up to three months.
It remains unclear how the batch made its way to Malta
It remains unclear how the batch made its way to Malta despite Johnson and Johnson saying it was delaying shipments until EMA concluded its investigations.
A health ministry spokesperson said that the consignment is on hold until further instructions from the EMA are received.
Unlike the other three vaccines currently in use in Europe – the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs – the one by Johnson and Johnson does not require booster jabs. It provides full immunity after just one dose is administered.
Although the health authorities have not said how many doses will be shipped to the island, health minister Chris Fearne has said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine would help speed up Malta’s roll-out.
Fearne has said the country could achieve herd immunity, by vaccinating 70% of the adult population, by June.
It is not yet known how the delays involving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine might impact this target. Projections by Times of Malta earlier in April had found that every person eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine could receive at least one dose by the first week of June.
This projection was worked out using the current vaccination rates and only included the three vaccines already at the health authorities’ disposal.
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