The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

‘Slow vaccination rollout not due to lack of human resources’ – MUMN president

Jake Aquilina Tuesday, 5 January 2021, 08:52 Last update: about 12 months ago

The president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) Paul Pace said that hospitals have more than enough manpower to inoculate ‘hundreds’ more people, but the reason why they are not given more vaccines so that the vaccination process moves faster remains a mystery, he said.

This comment comes after the government announced that 1,400 people had been inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine in the first week, despite Malta obtaining 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on the morning of the 26th of December.

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Vaccination against Covid-19 started on 27 December, along with the rest of the EU, with the first EU approved Pfizer vaccine.

The Medical Association of Malta also voiced its concern, saying that there are about 19,000 vaccines [which] remain idle in freezers’.

Pace highlighted two main points, the fact that doctors are not inoculating and that hospitals can vaccinate many more people.

"There are two important points: inoculations are not being given by doctors, and secondly, nurses have the capacity vaccinate many more – we are using just 45 minutes to vaccinate the day-load of vaccines that we are given."

Health Minister Chris Fearne was optimistic on Sunday, posting on Twitter a table indicating that Malta had ‘one of the highest vaccination rates per 100 people’. However, the MUMN president stressed again that, as shown during the last few weeks with the influenza vaccine, nurses can vaccinate more people than they are currently doing.

"We have the human resources and the capability to do much, much more… so it's not a matter of human resources, far from it. We are capable of jabbing hundreds of doses a day, as we saw with the influenza vaccine."

Pace also shed some light as to how the Pfizer vaccine works in terms of storage and inoculation. "According to Pfizer, after it's towed, we can leave it for 5 days in the fridge and it will still be ok for use." 

"The others (Moderna and Oxford/Astra Zeneca) are pretty much similar to the influenza vaccine in terms of logistics and storage." 

Pace noted that the nurses are being kept in the dark as to how many doses will be provided in the coming weeks.

"Everything is being kept secret, we need more transparency."

Asked whether he thinks that the country will manage to vaccinate all healthcare frontliners within 5 weeks, Pace responded in the negative.

"No way. With the slow pace that they are moving, five weeks won't be enough to vaccinate all frontliners. So no, unless they increase the amount of vaccinations."

The unpredictable road to herd immunity

The MUMN president also expressed, with vehemence, how one should be wary when stating that we might obtain herd immunity by early summer. This was in reference to statements made to this effect by various governments.

"The notion of obtaining herd immunity by early summer is jumping the gun. Let's stick to Pfizer’s numbers – that 95% will become protected from the virus once vaccinated. But how long will the immunity last?"

He noted that nobody can be sure as to how long the immunity in the body lasts once a person is vaccinated, let alone being sure that by summer a country would have obtained herd immunity.

"Nobody commented on how long immunity will last once a person is vaccinated… When one says that by summer we should be getting herd immunity it is being too optimistic. Not even the WHO said it."

“It’s not politicians at all who have a say about how long virus immunity lasts from the vaccine and predict when we will obtain herd immunity. The companies themselves don’t know how long immunity lasts, let alone politicians,” Pace remarked.

“In the meantime, we must follow the restrictions and measures of the health authorities until they give the ‘all-clear’.”

"We have to increase the doses and also consider how long the body of someone who is vaccinated can hold the antibodies – in order not to get sick again – to get a clearer idea as to when we will achieve herd immunity and get a sense of normality." 

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