The Malta Independent 6 June 2023, Tuesday
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Malta will wait for EMA authorisation for use of Pfizer vaccine in under 12s

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 26 September 2021, 09:00 Last update: about 3 years ago

The health authorities will wait for direction by the European Medicines Authority before they start administering the Pfizer vaccine to children under the age of 12, a health ministry spokesperson has told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Pfizer said last week that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek US authorization for this age group soon – a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with children now back in school and the extra-contagious Delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

This newsroom reached out to the health ministry to see if the authorities are planning to start giving the Pfizer vaccine to the 5-11 age cohort.

“As we had done with all age groups and all brands of Covid-19 vaccine, the Maltese health authorities will await the authorisation of the EMA for the administration of the vaccine to age groups below 12 years of age,” a spokesperson for deputy prime minister Chris Fearne said.

On Friday, the EMA said that “to date, no application for an extension of indication for a Covid-19 vaccine in children under 12 years of age has been received.”

The agency said it expects Pfizer to submit data in children aged 5-11 years in early October, and data from Moderna – another Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer – in early November.


Booster dose

The Maltese health ministry was also asked whether it planned on giving the Pfizer booster (third) shot to the general public. This after the pharma company said that the efficacy of its vaccine wanes over time and that a booster dose was safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants.

The decrease in effectiveness is “primarily due to waning of vaccine immune responses over time,” rather than the Delta variant, Pfizer researchers said in a presentation.

The American Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently voted to deny the use of Pfizer’s booster shots to the general public, disappointing some health experts who are pushing for a third dose to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

In comments to this newsroom, the health ministry indicated that there are currently no plans to give a booster dose to the general public.

“At the moment, as clearly stated publicly, booster vaccinations are specifically targeted at residents of nursing homes as well as individuals who fall in the definition of immunosuppression and persons aged over 70 years. Further groups should be addressed in the coming weeks and months,” the spokesperson said.

Until Friday, Malta had administered over 6,000 booster doses. All care home residents have now received their third dose, while the rollout of booster doses to those who are over 70 years old will commence on Monday.


Care homes lockdown lifted

Meanwhile, the ministry for the elderly has explained why care homes had to be temporarily shut down following the confirmation of positive cases.

Relatives of care home residents said the recent three-week shutdown of care homes had negatively affected the mental wellbeing of residents.

“My father had already spent months locked up at the home without access to his family. Now, because there were some positive cases at the home, the entire facility was put on lockdown again, and we could not see my father for weeks. With the low number of cases, and high vaccination rate, surely, they could have isolated the positive cases, rather than lock everyone up again. The past year and a half has already taken its toll on the wellbeing of the elderly, and episodes like this latest one only make the situation worse,” one woman told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Senior Citizens and Active Ageing, Michael Farrugia, said that, “Following the confirmation of positive cases, contact tracing was conducted and mitigation measures were implemented. In view of the infection control protocols, as agreed with Public Health, all residents in affected homes were to stay in isolation and visiting was suspended on a temporary basis.”

The quarantine period has elapsed, thus the residential home is open again to receive relatives, the ministry added.


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