Cold storage facilities needed to store the eagerly awaited COVID-19 vaccine are already available in Malta, the Health Ministry has confirmed.

Pfizer announced on Monday that its advanced clinical trials of its vaccine had yielded a success rate of more than 90%, sparking hope around the world that it would be widely available within the next few months.

The European Union has said it is very close to signing a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300 million doses.

However, questions over storage facilities have been raised, as the vaccine must be stored at a temperature much lower than that required for other jabs. This has sparked concern all over the world that not all health systems are sufficiently equipped for the job.

In Malta, the Health Ministry has already planned for the cold storage of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, a government spokes­person said.

“Cold storage facilities are in fact available to cater for the staged batches of the vaccine as they arrive,” the spokesperson said.

Details on the freezers available were not provided.

The vaccine must be stored in temperatures of at least minus 70 degrees Celcius to be effective. 

According to Pfizer’s preliminary findings, protection from COVID-19 in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses and 28 days after the first.

In comments to Times of Malta, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci confirmed that vaccine would be free of charge for everyone. She also stressed that while the latest development was a step in the right direction, it should not give the public the false impression that the pandemic is now over. People must not stop following mitigation measures.

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“We don’t know when exactly this vaccine will be coming and so we need to hang on for a while longer.

“But it’s good news. Where before it used to take five years to develop a vaccine, we have seen so much investment this time around that companies can soon provide us with one,” Gauci said.  

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