[WATCH] Chris Fearne: COVID-19 vaccine will be on its way to Malta the moment it is released

Xtra on TVM | Health Minister Chris Fearne urges people to make one last sacrifice over the Christmas period and avoid meeting as COVID-19 vaccine is weeks away

Health Minister Chris Fearne
Health Minister Chris Fearne

Chris Fearne has raised hopes the COVID-19 vaccine will be available at the start of 2021 and will reach Malta soon after it is released on the market.

The Health Minister said that if the clinical trials continue going as planned, a vaccine should be available in a matter of weeks.

He said that through the EU-wide procurement of the vaccine, irrespective of which companies will be the first to release it on the market, Malta’s batches will be on their way “the day it is released”.

The Health Minister said this was a far cry from the 2009 pandemic when Malta was towards the last to receive the swine flu vaccination because of its small market.

“At the beginning of this pandemic we were concerned that we would be left for last due to Malta’s small market size, and so I personally insisted in the council of ministers that the EU should buy the vaccine as a bloc, and then distribute it accordingly,” Fearne said.

He was speaking on TVM’s Xtra on Thursday night.

Fearne added that the vaccine will arrive in batches and the government already had a plan on who should start receiving the vaccine. “The inoculation will be distributed over a number of months and we have enough vaccines to vaccinate all the population,” he added.

Nationalist Party spokesperson Stephen Spiteri warned that the arrival of the vaccine will not mean that all precautionary measures should be immediately relaxed. 

“We need to understand that just because the vaccine arrives does not mean that we will immediately be controlling the spread of the coronavirus in our country, so it is very important that we remain vigilant and continue abiding by the preventive measures,” he said. 

Spiteri also remarked that, while Malta’s recent rise in cases is reflecting the wider global trend, the government could have helped to prevent this by acting differently.

The Nationalist MP criticised the “untimely relaxing of measures”, as well as the government’s message at the time that COVID-19 had been defeated and that business could go on as usual.

“The virus was still in the community and today we are seeing a large number of cases every day, and a certain mortality rate, and I think we could have acted differently back then to prevent what we are seeing today,” Spiteri said.

Acknowledging that with hindsight some things could have been done better, Fearne insisted that Malta’s current system was working well, arguing that one needed only compare to what was going on in the rest of Europe.

“In Malta the numbers are much lower than in other countries… out of every 100 people, 96 are negative and only 4 are positive, which is among the lowest rates in Europe and which means that the measures we implemented are working well,” Fearne said.

The minister said government took the tough decision to keep bars and nightclubs closed throughout the Christmas season, including New Year’s Eve.

He said the government did not want to regulate what people did in the privacy of their homes but called for responsibility to be shouldered.

“It is a question of responsibility and solidarity, that one does not just think of themselves but also of friends, relatives, and colleagues, and make an effort to look after them as well,” he said, urging people to make one last sacrifice until the vaccine arrives.

The Opposition MP, on his part, said that while the economy does need to keep on moving forward for the good of the country, public health should always remain the priority, as he urged the government to increase enforcement of measures.