A shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Malta and seven other EU countries has been delayed due to a “logistical issue” a spokesperson for Pfizer has confirmed to Times of Malta. 

Malta received its first shipment of the vaccine on Saturday and had been due to receive a second on Monday.

”A delivery to Malta was impacted but deliveries are now being dispatched,” the spokesman said.

“I can confirm that due to a minor logistical issue, we have rescheduled a limited number of our deliveries. The logistical matter has been resolved and those deliveries are now being dispatched. There are no manufacturing or temperature control issues to report.” 

Asked when the shipment to Malta is expected to arrive, the spokesperson said deliveries to impacted countries were “proceeding as planned” and the consignment to Malta will arrive on Tuesday.  

Malta began its immunisation programme on Sunday, with Mater Dei staff nurse Rachel Grech becoming the first person to take the jab, a day after the first consignment of vaccines arrived in Malta from a Pfizer factory in Belgium. A limited number of front-liners, mostly medical staff, were vaccinated on Sunday and Monday but efforts will be ramped up over the coming weeks and increased tenfold from 2,000 people a week to 20,000. 

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, with Malta having secured more doses than it had originally negotiated.

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

Spain also confirms one-day delay

The Spanish Health Ministry reported on Monday that Pfizer had postponed its delivery of the vaccine to the country a day after the EU began its immunisation campaign. 

The Spanish branch of Pfizer blamed the problem in the loading and shipment process at its plant in Belgium, the Spanish health ministry said in a statement.

It did not specify which European nations aside from Spain were affected, but said Spain's next delivery will be on Tuesday, a day later than expected.

"Due to a minor logistical issue, we have rescheduled a limited number of our deliveries," Andrew Widger, Pfizer's director for media relations said.

"The logistical matter has been resolved and those deliveries are now being dispatched. There are no manufacturing issues to report."

Asked about the delay during an interview with radio station Cadena Ser, Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa said it was due to a problem "linked to the control of the temperature" of the shipments which was "apparently fixed".

The vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius before being shipped to distribution centres in specially designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.

Once out of ultra-low temperature storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days. 

Additional reporting by AFP

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