EU strategy on COVID helped Malta fight health crisis

Ing. Karl Farrugia, responsible for all of Malta’s COVID-related projects and resources under the EU, discusses the Maltese strategy to mitigate the spread and effects of the pandemic

How effective has the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out been in Malta and other EU states? 

This was extremely effective, as through this process all member states managed to secure accessibility to covid vaccines as soon as they were approved by the European Medicines Agency. Furthermore, the agency set a price that was both reasonable and standardised across all countries. Through the Centralise Procurement and Supplies Unit (CPSU), Malta was able to take advantage of our experience in the field to increase the purchase on the initial allocation of doses. This meant having more doses available to increase Malta's vaccination rate, and, as such, reach herd immunity as quickly as possible. We also mitigated risk by having a multiple-supply-base manufacturer through which such vaccines were being ordered. This meant that Malta was well supplied throughout the entire period by the planning and efficacious foresight of the Maltese government to push for this joint procurement and be part of these agreements. 

What were the main challenges Malta faced because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus? How were these tackled? 

The major challenge CPSU faced was the availability of supplies and resources such as ventilators and oxygen therapy. We worked together with support from all government ministries, including assistance from the Finance Ministry for an injection of funds to support us throughout this situation. The Foreign Ministry also availed their international contacts to explore new markets together with other strategic stakeholders. These ranged from local to international specialists in commerce, transportation and aviation, and was made feasible with assistance from the Ministry for Education, which made available large storage spaces within public schools and 3D printers to manufacture protective visors. We also engaged with local manufacturers, who altered their production lines in order to support our needs during the pandemic.  

How has the EU supported member states during the pandemic? 

Ing Karl Farrugia
Ing Karl Farrugia

The support for EU member states was two-fold. Firstly, by subsidising the value of the vaccines and secondly by setting up joint procurement arrangements — not only for vaccines, but also for Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as visors, masks and coveralls. 

How has the Maltese government benefited from funding packages offered by the EU? 

In addition to vaccine subsidies, Malta also received a rebate of over €13.5 million on the expenditure of vaccines. Similar initiatives are also in operation to recoup costs pertaining to medical supplies and transportation. 

Malta has been on the forefront of vaccination roll-outs, with over 400,000 citizens now fully vaccinated. How was the roll-out strategy planned and agreed upon? How was this implemented so efficiently? 

Malta has always adopted a scientific approach, together with a logistical process by which all citizens were offered vaccination based on a pre-defined expansion scheme. This was based on our Health Ministry's strategy whereby frontliners were given priority due to their direct contact with potentially infected cases. We also abided by clinical conditions and age in order to give priority to vulnerable patients and patients residing in elderly homes. 

Has the partial lockdown assisted in reducing the rate of mortality and positive cases in Malta? 

The number of positive cases was definitely affected, as, before the vaccine was made available, we were only able to protect the population with the partial lockdown and other measures taken by Public Health. 

What do you think were the major factors in Malta’s strategy to achieving herd immunity?

Herd immunity was reached through a highly professional acquisition strategy, together with an efficient vaccination programme. Moreover, the Maltese population reacted positively to this process and diligently followed the directions given by the Health Department. 

Will a fourth booster jab be made mandatory in Malta? Who is advised to seek a fourth booster jab?

No covid vaccine was mandatory in Malta, and were always given on voluntary basis. Moreover, as in the past, the Health Ministry will provide the fourth booster jab based on clinical evidence to vulnerable patients and patients over a certain age that are most susceptible to COVID-19.