Herd immunity against Covid-19 will be achieved “in the coming weeks”, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne told Parliament on Monday, before also announcing that invitations for those over the age of 16 to get vaccinated will open this month.
“Up till today, we have given 330,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. At least 60% of the population have taken the first dose of the vaccine… the next milestone – the next 10% – is herd immunity.” Fearne said.
He said that they are expecting this to be achieved in “the coming weeks” – long before the initially predicted September timeline.
“In May, we will open vaccination for all persons who are 16 years of age and over. We are going to be the first country in the EU to do this”, Fearne also announced.
The Minister remarked that, as announced earlier this month, if the number stay low, more measures will be eased as planned.
Fearne said that health authorities were awaiting the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency for the vaccine roll-out to be able to be expanded to include those between 12 and 15 years of age – a milestone Canada achieved in past weeks, when it approved the Pfizer vaccine for use on this age group.
The Deputy Prime Minister noted that this time last year, numbers were also going down. “The difference this year, however, is that the majority of the population is vaccinated – so the vaccine is the solution.”
However, Fearne noted that there are two issues which the country must be wary of.
Firstly, the country should be aware of any variants to the virus. In this regard, Fearne said that Malta is already performing genome sequencing on all positive cases of the virus, meaning that any strains differing from the original strain can be identified.
“Up till now, the vaccines work on the variants. However, there can be the case eventually where the vaccine doesn’t work,” he said.
Secondly, the country, as the rest of the world, still needs to see how long the immunity that the vaccine gives actually lasts.
“It could be that after 8 to 9 months, immunity starts decreasing. This means that a booster dose might be needed”, he said. “Today, I can announce that we already have the orders in place, so if we need to administer another booster dose, we will be able to do that,” Fearne remarked.