Malta has secured double the number of COVID-19 vaccines needed to inoculate the entire country and plans on donating or selling it surplus jabs, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Tuesday. 

Speaking during question time in Parliament, Fearne said that after the government had initially negotiated for 80,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, it has now secured a total of 270,000 doses from the pharmaceutical producer. 

That is over an above the 650,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine previously negotiated, he said. 

Furthermore, Malta has secured an agreement for one million doses of a third vaccine being produced by AstraZeneca. 

Fearne said this meant Malta will have enough jabs to fully inoculate the entire population twice over. 

Malta is vaccinating people against COVID-19 at a faster rate than most of its European Union peers, according to data collected by a global statistics website.

Extra doses to be sold, donated

Fearne said that in view of this, the cabinet had this week agreed to enter into negotiations with European partners to hand over extra doses to other countries, either donating or selling them. 

"We will be giving doses of the vaccine to countries that would probably not even have started inoculating citizens by the time Malta will have already finished. That is our plan in action," he said.  

Fearne said that in 10 days, the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will have arrived in Malta.  

Just on Monday, the European Commission indicated that it is shifting its early COVID-19 vaccination strategy away from AstraZeneca after the Anglo-Swedish company fell far short in its pledges.

Information being provided by vaccine producer showed that their jab’s efficacy was “very good”.

Fearne said that while it was safe to use in all age groups in Malta it would be used on 18-55-year-olds.  

However, this did not necessarily mean that 18-55-year-olds would be given the AstraZeneca vaccine, with each citizen’s specific dose depending on the roll-out program. 

Fearne said that the government’s initial inoculation plan had been based on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This, he said, means that when the AstraZeneca lands in Malta later in February, health authorities will be able to accelerate the jabbing program.

To date, some 30,000 vaccine doses have already been handed out, with some 5,000 citizens already given their second and final round of the jab. 

Fearne added that, of the 30,000 doses given so far, the authorities had not noted any major side effects, other than light headaches, and stiffness, which were normal and not cause for concern.   

The government, Fearne told the House, would soon be increasing the daily inoculation rate from 1,300 doses to 2,500. 

He said that, as from Wednesday, Malta will start offering doses to those travelling abroad for medical treatment, but this would only be done for those aged over 16 for the time being. 

PN proposal to utilise family doctors in vaccination programme accepted

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Nationalist Party said the government had accepted its proposals to use family doctors in the vaccination programme for more efficiency.

It said the government should immediately reach an agreement with pharmacies in the community to have a plan of action in place for when the jabs production increased.

 

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