Malta is pushing for EU-wide cooperation on the issuing of a vaccination certificate for those who get the COVID-19 jab, with Health Minister Chris Fearne urging European counterparts to decide on the matter soon.
A similar call was also made by Greece on Tuesday as the country, which like Malta is heavily reliant on tourism, seeks to make travelling easier. The issue is expected to be on the agenda of the next meeting of the European Council. It is hoped that a vaccination certificate will avoid the need for travellers to be held in quarantine.
EU countries started vaccinating people on December 27, with rollouts in all countries focusing on the vulnerable and frontline workers.
But as more doses become available, countries have started looking ahead and making plans for when the vaccine is offered to everyone.
As it enters the next phase of the pandemic, Malta is pushing for the introduction of so-called vaccine certificates that will be handed to those who get the jab and which would be used when travelling.
According to the health ministry, Fearne has asked for EU-wide cooperation and for an early decision to “standardise and to consider issuing a vaccine certificate to facilitate travel and tourism between member states” until widespread herd immunity is achieved.
He spoke about the issue in a meeting with the European Commissioner for Health, the European Centre for Disease Control, the European Medicines Aagency and other EU Ministers of Health this week.
In December, public health chief Charmaine Gauci had told Times of Malta the country's health database already includes a feature for this purpose and that the authorities are investigating ways to make the certificate digital and secure.
The next step involves a decision at EU level that would result in one common document recognised by all.
Meanwhile, PN MEP Roberta Metsola has also called for the issuing of vaccine certificates, commending Fearne’s position on the matter.
“We've seen with the rollout of Passenger Locator Forms and different apps how difficult it can be to get states to agree to common forms, so it is imperative that we do this now in time for when a critical mass of Europeans have been vaccinated.
“Proof of immunity will mean our economies can open up safely, quickly and in confidence - meaning we can offer a lifeline to industries so many families depend on,” she told Times of Malta.
"The next step now must be to issue EU-wide vaccine certificates. Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis is right to be pushing this forward and I am pleased that Malta, through Health Minister Chris Fearne, has said that it will support the initiative."
According to Malta's vaccination plan, 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 will get the jab by end of January.
By the end of February all other frontliners, people over 80, people with chronic illnesses (specified by public health) and people over 70 will get it.
By the end of March all those in homes for the elderly will have received the first dose while in the weeks that follow, staff at schools and childcare centres and a fourth cohort of people over 55 will get the jab.
By the end of April/May the vaccination programme should start focusing on the rest of the public though health authorities say the vaccine timeline could change if more doses are procured or if further vaccines are approved.
The vaccination rollout has been criticised as slow by the management of some private homes for the elderly, with one care home saying it hasn't yet been given a date for the inoculation of its residents.
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