The take-up of COVID-19 vaccines in Malta has been very good, but it is still too early to say whether restrictions on areas such as stand-up receptions may be relaxed by the summer, the Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, said on Wednesday.

She was replying to readers' questions on COVID-19, in the week that Malta exceeded 50,000 vaccine jabs and detected the first case of the South African variant of the virus. 

The programme was presented by Times of Malta's Claire Farrugia. 

Replying to the various questions, Gauci said all invitations for vaccination for those aged between 80-84 have been issued and those who have not received an invitation yet can phone on number 145.

Invitations are also going out to a group of almost 25,000 people who have medical conditions that put them at risk. In this case invitations are being issued in batches.

Also currently in hand are the processes for the vaccination of non-medical front liners and schools staff.  Most will get the Astra Zeneca vaccine, while those aged over 55 will get one of the other vaccines. 

People who would have already tested positive for COVID-19  are being advised to wait four weeks before taking the vaccine.

Asked if weddings with stand-up receptions can be allowed this summer, Gauci said it was too early to say although she hoped Malta would have a better summer than last year. It depended a great deal on the spread of the virus, new variants of the virus, and the vaccination programme. 

Asked about the discovery of new variants, Gauci said viruses such as this change a lot. Sometimes they change their characteristics and become more infectious. The UK variants seen in Malta had created clusters showing they affected more people than previous clusters. The key was to control the clusters and focus on vaccination. 

Gauci said the take-up of vaccines so far had been good. 91% of healthcare staff had received the vaccine. Some did not because of specific medical conditions or pregnancy.  Take-up among the elderly also appeared to be very good. 

She said it was being recommended that people do not take the vaccine during pregnancy. She, however, refuted claims of the vaccine causing infertility.

Asked if Malta will use the Russian Sputnik vaccine, Gauci said Malta will stick to the EU vaccines procurement process. 

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