The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Malta on Saturday morning just before 11am. A Cessna plane carrying around 10,000 doses landed at the Malta International Airport. The doses were flown from a Pfizer factory in Puurs Belgium through Amsterdam.
Malta is set to start its mass vaccination programme on Sunday.
Around 600,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech will be shipped to Malta over the coming weeks and months.
During a press conference on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne explained that Malta secured a total of 600,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech up by 340,000 initially secured through the European Union’s joint procurement procedure.
Visibly emotional, the health minister asked for a few minutes of silence to honour the Covid-19 victims, acknowledging that while today was a day to celebrate the arrival of the vaccine, families have lost their loved ones to the pandemic.
Minister Fearne explained that if everything goes as planned, the general public will start receiving the vaccine by April. If approved by the European Medicines Authority, Moderna’s and AstraZeneca candidate vaccine, will also be available.
Apart from its 600,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Malta has more than one million doses of other vaccines on order. Minister Fearne hinted that any excess doses would be made available to neighbouring countries which have not yet secured a vaccine supply.
Health Minister Chris Fearne explained that those who will receive the jab will also receive a health certificate both in digital format and as a hard copy. He added that at a European level, a discussion on whether to issue a vaccine passport has initiated.
Prime Minister Robert Abela urged the public to remain vigilant and not to let down their guard.
“The road to normality begins today,” he stressed while urging the public to remain cautious. During his address, Abela spoke about the various measures the government took in order to protect lives and livelihoods.
Superintendent of Public Health Professor Charmaine Gauci urged the public to get vaccinated. She underlined that one has a responsibility to do so, not just for oneself but for the rest of the community.
The World Health Organisation’s regional director, Hans Kluge, congratulated Malta’s health leadership ahead of the rolling out of the mass vaccination programme.
"It is crucial that we remain vigilant," Abela underlines.
He underlines that it is important to continue abiding by the health authorities' guidelines and to remain vigilant.
Prime Minister says that he looks forward to the new year with hope and courage. The government will continue supporting businesses until we're on our way for recovery.
A health certificate will be issued both in hard copy and in a digital format.
The vaccine is administered in two doses.
Minister Fearne reiterates that until summer, Malta reaches herd immunity.
On the vaccine passport, the idea is still being discussed among European member states.
"It could be that some won't arrive. Extra vaccines might be donated to developing countries," Fearne explains.
The amount of doses ordered from Malta show that we have ordered them months ago. Separate orders with different companies were made.
The vaccination campaign has started from today.
Initially the most vulnerable will receive the vaccine. Depending on when the Moderna and AstraZeneca arrive, the vaccination of the general public will start.
To date, from genetic sequencing of the virus sample taken from positive patients have not been detected.
Throughout the pandemic there were other variants but this variant has more mutations. Experts have observed a higher rate of transmission.
20,000 vaccines a week will be given once the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are approved.
Minister Fearne explains that the logistics of storing and transporting the vaccine is complex and this resulted in a slow start.
"Each and every one of us should take the vaccine in the best interest of the community," Prof. Gauci says.
She urges the public to take the jab.
She highlights that the public needs to continue abiding by the mitigation measures.
Since the beginning of this pandemic we took the necessary measures to protect our communities, Prof. Gauci says.
This vaccine was developed through science.
Public Health Superintendent describes today as a special day.
As from tomorrow we shall turn the page, Fearne says.
500,000 swab test mark was surpassed today, Fearne announces.
The health minister also urges the public to contribute to l-Istrina which is scheduled to start later on today.
Fearne explains that together with other European countries, Malta will work on a vaccine passport which will show that passengers have taken the jab.
This will help achieve the so-called herd immunity.
"Our plan is to vaccinate most of the population by summer 2021," Fearne explains.
Initially Malta was allocated 260,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Following negotiations with the pharmaceutical company Malta increased the amount to 500,000 doses and finally to 600,000.
"Since February, we've lobbying for a joint procurement at a European level," Fearne says.
Fearne asks for a minute of silence for those who died of coronavirus. He acknowledges that while today is a day to rejoice, others have lost their loved ones.
"We will taking back our lives, our economy and we will back to doing all the mundane things we are used to," Fearne says.
"Today is a historic day for Malta. We will start attacking the virus as of tomorrow," Fearne says.
DPM Fearne takes over. He admits he is emotional.
He urges everyone to take the vaccine which will be available free of charge.
"Our country can return to normality and we can look forward to life after the pandemic," Abela says, as he mentions economic recovery.
"This is one of the best presents we could have given to the nation," Abela says.
He makes reference to the measures taken by other countries, and compared it to the local situation.
There are other countries which will receive the vaccine next year, Abela points out.
He goes through a list of measures taken by the government in order to keep the economy going despite the havoc caused by the global pandemic.
He says that he is proud that of the government's strategy to protect lives and livelihoods.
"Today, with the arrival of the vaccine in Malta, we can start looking forward to turn the page," Abela starts off.
Prime Minister Robert Abela, DPM and Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci will soon address a press conference.
The vaccine has just arrived a few minutes ago.
Good morning and welcome to this live blog. We're live from the Malta International Airport.
Writing on Facebook, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne shared a screenshot of the aircraft’s route on its way to Malta earlier on Saturday.
The first 10,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived just before 10.00a.m. The first dose will be administered to a nurse who works at Mater Dei Hospital at 9am on Sunday.
The details of the vaccine rollout were announced earlier this week during a news conference, just minutes after the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.