Updated 2.20pm

Some 7,000 people who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab against COVID will receive their second dose earlier than planned as a precaution against the Indian Delta variant, the health authorities have confirmed.

Malta is not the only country to speed up the process. Last week Ireland reported that most of those waiting for a second shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine will get it ahead of their originally scheduled appointment.

The dosing gap is being shortened due to concerns over the Delta variant which has fuelled a surge in cases in the UK.

The change in Malta's timeframe for the administration of the jab was first reported by the Malta Independent.

On Thursday a Health Ministry spokesperson told Times of Malta that the specified interval between the first and second AstraZeneca doses is between four and 12 weeks. 

"As the vaccination programme in Malta is advancing at a steady pace, a decision was taken to move forward by two weeks - from 10 to eight weeks - the second jab.

"This change will affect around 7,000 individuals, and Malta has enough stock to cater for this change."

The spokesperson said this was being done as a precaution against the Indian Delta variant, which is more contagious and is spreading rapidly in Europe.

Full vaccination affords better protection against this variant, she added.

By Wednesday, 636,059 AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson doses had been administered in total, with the number of fully vaccinated people rising to 294,650. 

EU thanks Malta

Meanwhile, the government said on Thursday Health European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides thanked Malta for its support in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Malta, she said, was one of the countries that had mostly supported joint procurement, which led to EU states having equal access, and at the same time, to the vaccines.

Kyriakides was replying to a letter Fearne sent encouraging the EU to be proactive and buy the necessary COVID-19 vaccine consignments members might need in the coming years.

She said the EU had signed a third contract with BioNTech-Pfizer for the consignment of 1.8 billion doses which will start to be distributed at the end of the year.


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