Rachel Grech, a staff nurse at Mater Dei Hospital's Infectious Disease Unit, has received the first COVID-19 vaccine in Malta. 

She received the vaccine at 9am in a procedure streamed live on Facebook in what is an unprecedented EU drive against a virus which has killed 1.75 million people so far. 

A limited number of people will be vaccinated on Sunday but efforts will be ramped up over the coming weeks and increased tenfold from 2,000 people a week to 20,000. 

The first batch of the vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, arrived in Malta on Saturday from a Pfizer factory in Belgium.

Around 600,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine - enough to inoculate 300,000 people - will be shipped to Malta over the coming weeks and months, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Saturday, with Malta having secured more doses than it had originally negotiated.  

The vaccine procurement is part of an EU-wide effort to ensure that all member states obtain vaccine doses at the same time. 

People must receive two doses of the vaccine, 21 days apart, for it to be fully effective. Vaccination is voluntary and free-of-charge. 

Apart from its 600,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Malta has more than one million doses of other vaccines on order.

Fearne has hinted that any excess doses would be made available to neighbouring countries which have not yet secured a vaccine supply. 

WHO's European leader 'impressed' with Malta

In a statement later on Sunday, the Health Ministry said the of the World Health Organisation's Europe branch has congratulated Malta for obtaining the same treatment as large European countries.

Hans Kluge said he was impressed at the number of vaccines Malta managed to acquire and at the rate other consignments are due to arrive.

This, he said, was due to the government's administration, pointing out it was Fearne who had prepared for the European purchase of medicines when he had embarked upon this debate under Malta's European presidency of the EU back in 2017.



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