The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Queue-jumping remains a reality as vaccine programme intensifies

Albert Galea Sunday, 28 March 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

As Malta's vaccination drive intensifies, people jumping the queue and getting their jab before they should remains a reality, with The Malta Independent on Sunday receiving multiple reports from individuals - including members of its own staff - who were offered the vaccine early.

The vaccine rollout has continued at a great pace, especially in the past week where an average well over 4,000 doses were administered every day, leading to 170,000 doses of the vaccine being administered thus far.

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However, there remain concerns over who exactly is receiving the vaccine - and whether they should be receiving it right now in the first place.

Many have taken to social media to complain about how they fit into what should be priority cohorts, such as being over 70 or 75 years of age or being medically vulnerable, and how they are yet to receive their vaccination appointment - let alone their jab.

There has also been concern over the capability of the 145 dedicated helpline. This was revealed by The Malta Independent on Sunday a couple of weeks ago, and an effort to strengthen the helpline - which is dedicated to receiving inquiries about the vaccine - followed soon after.

Amidst all this concern though, there are situations where people who should not be getting vaccinated just yet - on the basis that they do not form part of any of the priority cohorts whose turn it is to get the jab - are in fact receiving their vaccines.

This is a process which seems to be occurring through what are known as the 'reserve lists.'

These reserve lists are made up of people who can receive the vaccine at a moment's notice.  It is standard practice across various countries to have such a list, especially because some of the vaccines - Pfizer's is one such vaccine - must be used once they are constituted.

If the dose is not used once it is constituted, then the vaccine dose is lost - a situation which everyone would like to avoid.

It is on these lists that abuse is taking place.

There have been multiple reports circulating on social media of how people can be "put on the list" to get the vaccine. 

This newsroom is also informed of a case where a particular person charged with putting such a list together got his two sons - who are both in their early 20s and University students - onto the vaccination list, which meant that they have subsequently been vaccinated as well.

Furthermore, three members of this newsroom have been approached by individuals who offered to get them "put on the list" to receive their vaccine shot early.  These offers were all refused.

Answering questions on this matter last week, the Health Ministry said that the vaccination programme is proceedings upon a plan drawn up by health authorities and "lauded by the World Health Organisation" according to an order of priority based on scientific evidence.

"When a person with an appointment does not show up, and the vaccine dose still has to be administered, the Health Authorities move on to following priorities consistent with that current cohort. Currently that is, among others, essential workers from the transport sector, including Air Malta and Virtu Ferries employees", the Ministry said.

This newsroom is informed that authorities do launch an investigation into allegations passed onto them that people have skipped the queue.

There have been other reported instances - Nationalist Party candidate Justin Schembri for instance recently shared a Facebook post where a woman claimed that the thing that got a 76-year-old woman with co-morbidities her vaccine appointment was not her contacting 145 or sending emails, but it was a random phone call from a political canvasser which did the job for her.

The vaccination queue has been a topic of controversy especially throughout March: Health Minister Chris Fearne claimed that a number of Opposition MPs had approached him to ask for them to be able to get their jab early - a claim that that PN parliamentary group vehemently denied, and which Fearne failed to elaborate on by publicly naming any names.

PN leader Bernard Grech had called for an independent inquiry into alleged queue jumping - a suggestion which has been heeded and which is ongoing.

In an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday earlier this month though, Health Minister Fearne had insisted that there isn't any nefarious plot to get certain favoured people vaccinated before others and that the whole process was following a set programme.


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