COVID-19 herd immunity target to be reached on 19 May

The 70% mark set by the Maltese authorities will be reached next week

Herd immunity for COVID-19 will be reached today week if the vaccination rollout of first doses maintains the current pace. 

With 61% of the adult population aged 18 and over having received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last Monday, the 70% mark set by the Maltese authorities will be reached on 19 May. 

On the same day, Malta can expect to have a third of its adult population fully-inoculated with two doses, or the single shot Janssen vaccine. 

MaltaToday has been tracking the vaccination rollout and the daily figures published by the health authorities show that since the start of May, the number of adults vaccinated with the first dose has increased by one percentage point per day. 

The only blip was last Sunday and this is probably attributable to the fact that it happened to be Mother’s Day. 

The latest available data, which is for last Monday, shows that 265,361 first doses had been administered, while 123,843 people were fully vaccinated. 

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said last week that herd immunity will be reached when 70% of the adult population would have received its first dose. 

Health Minister Chris Fearne said in parliament on Tuesday that one dose would provide a level of immunity that contributes to less severe symptoms if a person contracts the virus. 

If the daily 1% increase is maintained, Malta can expect to have all its adult population vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose by 18 June. 

The rollout of second doses has seen a 1% increase every other day, which means that at the current rate, by today week, 33% of the population would be fully vaccinated. 

If this vaccination rate is maintained Malta could hope to achieve the EU target of having 70% of its adult population fully-vaccinated (with two doses or the Janssen shot) by the end of July. 

Improving or regressing from the target depends on the timely delivery of vaccines. 

Malta is currently using the four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency – Pfizer-BioNtech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). 

Herd immunity is when a substantial proportion of a population is vaccinated thus lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the community. 

The percentage of people who need to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. 

According to the World Health Organisation the proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to induce herd immunity is not known. This is an area where research is ongoing. 

However, the 70% coverage is being considered by European health authorities as a plausible target to start achieving a semblance of normality. 

Malta is relaxing restrictive measures in a gradual approach as coronavirus infections and hospitalisations drop. 

The tough measures were introduced in March as the country battled a surge of cases that put hospital facilities under strain. 

On Tuesday, Malta recorded only six new infections as active cases continued to drop to 204.