The Malta Independent 23 January 2021, Saturday

Vaccination rollout process needs to be more transparent – Medical Association of Malta

Thursday, 14 January 2021, 08:29 Last update: about 8 days ago

The government needs to be more transparent when it comes to the vaccine rollout and inoculation process, the President of the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) Martin Balzan told The Malta Independent

"From MAM's side, we believe there needs to be more transparency. The number of vaccines that are coming from abroad and who they are being given to should be published in an official statistic," Balzan said. 

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He said that statistics should be published like those seen published daily on the saħħa Facebook page. 

"The statistic should be present, like the ones showing the number of swab tests, how many people tested positive, how many negative, how many recovered, and so forth."

The MAM president also noted that the amount of doses that are being given have increased. 

"From when we started, they were providing around 50 a day to be used, now it’s more close to 400 a day. They are telling us that by the end of the month, all healthcare professionals will have had the first dose." 

However, he said that Malta is still a long way off from hitting its target to achieve herd immunity, or indeed have a sense of normality. 

"We're far away from 500,000 people getting vaccinated. We need around at least 5,300 people getting vaccinated a day if we are discussing the possibility of having normality by around May. I believe that production is not keeping up with the demand."

However, he emphasised that the government should be more efficient in its distribution process. 

"We don't want the vaccines to stay in the freezers due to inefficiency. We want them to be distributed."

Healthcare students 

Regarding healthcare students, who work with patients as part of their studies, Balzan said that ideally they would get inoculated, but the issue is with prioritisation, which does not fall under their remit.

He was asked about this after the Malta Health Students' Association (MHSA) urged the Health Authorities to offer the Covid-19 vaccine to all Faculty of Health Sciences students, who are required to work in placements and do similar work to frontliners, such as in swabbing centres. 

"Ideally the students take it, but priorities are being set by the Health Department. It is easy for them to spread it among patients. I don't know where they will be situated in terms of priority. We pushed for them to take it, but where they come in terms of priority, that is not up to us," he remarked.

"One must not forget that students are young, so they don't fall under the vulnerable category. Maybe that is why they are down the list – perhaps the contact with other patients is what is worrying."

‘List of people requiring vaccination was not up to date’ - MUMN President

The list of people who require vaccination was not updated, resulting in requests being sent for people who have been dead for years to come in to be vaccinated, the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) Paul Pace said.

"The list of people who were going to get vaccinated included people who were already dead, some of them years ago - it wasn't an updated list. On some days, when we were going to have over 100 people being vaccinated, it went down to just 17," Pace revealed.

"At first, we were sure that we were not going to manage to inoculate them on time. But now, of course, the list has been reduced."

Pace also noted that the vaccination programme has lost quite a bit of manpower since pharmacists were initially going to be part of the process, but now won't be; something which could cause a backlog in the future. 

"At one point pharmacists were going to administer the vaccine as well, but now it will only be nurses. This could cause a logistical problem in the future, as we have lost manpower as a result of this," the MUMN president said.

Pace also spoke about the dire need for nurses to know about the vaccine phases more clearly, as although meetings are being set up, they have no idea what is going to happen in the near future in terms of the vaccination process.

"Nurses need to know about the next phases of the distribution of vaccines. We don't know how the process is going to work. They are also not taking into consideration the fact that there could be some nurses who are on sick leave, quarantine leave, and so forth. So there is little room for error."

In light of this, he said that the country could end up in a backlog situation, explaining that it would be better for the Health Authorities to give a clear and concise plan for the next months rather than a plan for only a few days ahead, he said. 

"We don't want to end up in a situation where we would send in letters for an appointment, and have them end up being disappointed as we wouldn't manage to meet the demand. We need to know how the situation is being planned out beforehand." 

Pace also suggested that there be a faster rollout of the vaccine to the nurses in order for them to vaccinate others, “as the more people get vaccinated during this period, the better the chance there is to achieve herd immunity.”

"What we need right now is a faster rollout so that if bulkier batches of vaccines arrive from abroad in the coming months, then we won't be inundated with demand all at once. In retrospect, we would end up thinking that back in January and February we could have vaccinated more people, and wouldn't have found ourselves with a lot of vaccines waiting on the shelves."

 

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