[WATCH] COVID Omicron and influenza vaccines to be administered on annual basis

Annual voluntary vaccines for both Influenza and COVID Omicron vaccine will be made available

Health minister Chris Fearne has announced an annual vaccination programme for both the influenza season, as well as the COVID variant prevalent among the Maltese population.

Fearne said that COVID had become an “endemic” part of Malta’s influenza season, but said the pandemic was well over.

“COVID has now become endemic... there is enough resistance and immunity within the community – either because enough people have been vaccinated or because others were infected – to render the situation more manageable,” Fearne said.

The minister said there would be no need for any mitigation measures against COVID. “That pandemic is over... the time when we spoke of steep learning curves or the fear of hospital services being overwhelmed is over.”

But Fearne said the government would be offering both the seasonal influenza as well as the COVID vaccine on a voluntary, annual basis. “It is possible that people are both infected with the ‘flu as well as COVID... vaccination helps combat the effects of such infections.”

The COVID vaccination specifically targets the Omicron variants prevalent today. “Whether people take the vaccination or not, it will not affect previous vaccination status for those countries which are still requesting vaccine certificates.”

Vulnerable people and persons older than 55 years, individuals with chronic diseases, persons who work or live-in healthcare institutions, children aged between five months and five years, and pregnant women have the chance to be vaccinated between the 17 October and October 30th.

Meanwhile, vaccination for the general public starts on 31 October. Fearne explained that whoever wants to be vaccinated against Covid-19, can take both vaccinations on the same day, which means that a person gets vaccinated on each hand.

Questioned on the expected severity of the influenza season during the winter months, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that this year, the influenza season started earlier than in previous years.

From preliminary analysis, Gauci said medical professionals are observing a rise in H3N2 cases - a type of influenza that has resulted in a number of hospitalisations in the past.