EXCLUSIVE: COVID-19 Vaccines Enters Human Clinical Trials, Antibody Tests and more, in the First Episode of Bay Chats

89.7 Bay Station Manager, Drew Zammit, and Bay News Coordinator Noel Zarb, hosted the first edition of Bay-Chats, a weekly interview show which will feature the key persons on the front-line of what would be dominating our social chats, and our news at a given time.

Today’s guest was Virologist Dr Christopher Barbara, Head of the Pathology Department within Mater Dei Hospital, who answered some Covid-19 related questions for us.

Malta is currently among those countries leading the way when it comes to testing its residents for the virus, with over 21,000 tests carried out so far, and while swab tests are currently being used, we asked Dr Barbara about whether antibody tests are being used.

“These tests are currently available, and are also being used in Malta, in certain instances. These antibodies develop at a later stage, six weeks after the virus has infected the body, to be exact. Even Italy, who have been battling this virus longer than us are still hesitant on using this as their main means of testing.


#BayChats to Chief Virologist, Dr. Christopher Barbara, about the COVID-19 situation in Malta 🦠Join the LIVE discussion.

Publiée par 89.7 Bay sur Jeudi 16 avril 2020

“The test has a good role in the virus’ second stage, but swab tests that identify the virus are the current standard, and the one recommended most by WHO. There may be a time when these antibody tests will start being utilised more frequently and efficiently.”

As for the golden question of the episode – “Are we close to having a vaccine administered?”

“Loads of companies are already working on it in. Five countries to be exact” Dr Barbara shares.

“There are three phases in any clinical trial and one of the vaccines is currently in its clinical-trial-on-humans phase. We’d need to see how long the vaccine would provide immunity to the virus for – whether it’s a few months or a year or whatever.”

“Having said that, even if the vaccine passes the clinical trial with flying colours, it still needs to go through the production phase. Enough vaccines would have to be made in order to be administered globally.

“But to put everyone’s mind at ease, Malta has already signed the legal documents necessary to buy this vaccine and make sure that we will be at the forefront of providing the cure to the Maltese population, once it is available.”

And while Covid-19’s R-nought factor is currently at 2.2, which means that globally speaking, anyone who contracts the virus, is likely to transmit it to 2.2 people, here in Malta the R-nought factor is at slightly above 1.

Does that mean we’ve reached the peak and are well on our way to flattening the curve?

“The ideal is for the virus to have an R-nought factor of 0, which means that when getting the virus you will not transmit it to anyone else. In Italy, we’ve seen the R-nought factor exceed 3, leading to an exponential curve.

“In Malta, because of the measures taken, social distancing adhered to, airport, shops and entertainment establishment closed, our R-nought value has decreased. In Malta, we assume that the R-nought value is currently slightly above 1.

“The infamous curve will reach its peak eventually, and until the peak is reached, R0-Factor will increase. When peak is reached, to know the curve is flattening, the R0-Factor would need to be below 1.

“We have not yet reached our peak. If we had, the R-nought value would be below 1. For this to happen, everyone needs to be strict, rigid and stay home. So far, we have not reached the peak, which is why we are putting such an emphasis on everyone to stay home and wash their hands.  It is only in this way that we kill the virus’ chances to transmit itself onto someone else and replicate.”