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Malta has widest COVID vaccine reach in Europe, says Chris Fearne

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The deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine in Malta has so far inoculated around 3% of the population, making it one of the pioneers in Europe, said Health Minister Chris Fearne.

He insisted that the vaccination program, which started right after Christmas, was progressing as planned.

“While other countries had vaccinated 1% of the population, Malta’s percentage stood at 2.7% and is one of the countries with the greatest reach in Europe,” Fearne said on TVM’s Xtra. Thursday evening.

He revealed that more than 13,000 people would have received the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the week.

Fearne said an additional 13,000 Pfizer vaccines have been withheld so that the second dose can be delivered in 21 days to people who have already been vaccinated.

As Malta enters the third week of vaccination, Fearne said another delivery of 15,000 vaccines is expected on Monday and deliveries will increase exponentially in the coming weeks.

He said that in addition to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are currently available, Malta would also benefit from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine upon approval by the European Medicines Agency. The European regulator has set a special meeting for January 29 at which the Oxford vaccine should be cleared for distribution in the EU.

“By the end of this month, 70% of health workers will have been vaccinated and by mid-February every health worker will have received the vaccine,” Fearne said.

He added that residents of St Vincent de Paul will also receive the vaccine by the end of this month, with other elderly care homes receiving it by the end of February.

READ ALSO: COVID vaccine rollout so far reaches 300 elderly residents in nursing homes

“People in the community over 85 will start receiving the vaccine and all will have received it by the end of this month,” the minister said.

Asked by Savior host Balzan when the entire population would be vaccinated, Fearne said he hoped the goals set would be met.

The targets announced so far have identified September as the month when collective immunity would be achieved and the end of the year for the entire population to be inoculated. However, these targets only took into account the availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The deadlines could be brought forward when more vaccines become available.

Asked about vaccination certificates, Fearne said Malta had discussed the likelihood of a vaccination certificate with the European Health Commissioner in a bid to encourage travelers to visit Malta during the summer months.

Nationalist MP Stephen Spiteri called on the government to call on the private health sector to help roll out the vaccination program.

Virologist Chris Barbara explained that the process of inoculating the Pfizer vaccine was not straightforward because it had an element of preparation. But the health authorities were ready to take up the challenge, he insisted.

Barbara said the COVID variants that appeared at this point were not a problem, but she hoped they wouldn’t disrupt the vaccine’s effectiveness in the future.

A variant of COVID in the UK has been found to be more infectious but not more deadly and vaccines are said to still work against it. However, concerns have been expressed in recent days about the South African variant, which scientists fear is on the way to mutating into a vaccine-resistant variant.

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