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Covid-19 vaccines to be non-mandatory and free

Macao’s future Covid-19 vaccines for residents will be non-mandatory and free of charge

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

Addressing Monday’s press conference about Macao’s novel coronavirus situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, said that Macao’s future Covid-19 vaccines for residents will be non-mandatory and free of charge.

Lo also underlined that the Covid-19 vaccines to be bought by the Macao government will “surely” be safe and effective.

The Health Bureau (SSM) has said that the local government aims to purchase 1.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines covering the city’s whole population – two shots for each person.

According to the Statistics and Census Bureau (DSEC), Macao’s population stood at 682,800 at the end of the third quarter, comprising permanent and non-permanent residents as well as non-resident workers living in Macao (a major part of Macao’s non-resident workers live in Zhuhai).

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U told lawmakers last week that in addition to the Macao government’s ongoing negotiations with various vaccine producers for the 1.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, it has also been discussing with certain vaccine producers the purchase of emergency Covid-19 vaccines, which were expected to be delivered to Macao by the end of this year.

Ao Ieong said last week that frontline workers subject to higher Covid-19 risk, such as medical workers, firefighters and police officers, would be the first to get injections of the emergency Covid-19 vaccines to be delivered to Macao.

Ao Ieong also said last week that the Macao government expected the 1.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to be delivered to Macao in the first quarter of next year at the earliest.

Ao Ieong said last week that once Covid-19 vaccines are available for the city’s population, the government would carry out a gradual vaccination drive, with those who need to work or study outside Macao to get vaccinated first.

Also addressing last Wednesday’s plenary session in the legislature with Ao Ieong, Health Bureau (SSM) Director Lei Chin Ion pointed out that none of the Covid-19 vaccines under development has passed the third phase of clinical trials. He also noted that as Covid-19 emergency vaccines are those that while they have not been officially approved yet will nevertheless be put into the market first so that those who get emergency vaccine shots could be subject to certain health risks.

During Monday’s press conference, Lo underlined that the Macao government has been contacting various vaccine producers from the mainland and abroad for its purchase of Covid-19 vaccines, adding that the Macao government will ensure that the Covid-19 vaccines to be used in Macao will be safe and effective.

Lo underlined that the timetable as to when the various Covid-19 vaccines could be supplied to Macao would depend on various factors, such as the final findings of their respective clinical research studies.

Lo pointed out that while the Covid-19 vaccines developed by many vaccine producers worldwide have already been undergoing the third phase of clinical trials, none of them has passed the third phase. Lo said that while the mid-term clinical research reports of some of the Covid-19 vaccines undergoing the third phase of clinical trials have been published, their final research findings are yet to be formally published in medical academic journals, which means that their safety and effectiveness would still need to be “proved by time”.

2 vaccination channels

Lo pointed out that the use of Covid-19 vaccines in any particular country or region will have two channels. Concerning the first channel, Lo said that the health authorities of certain countries with a serious Covid-19 epidemic would choose to grant an emergency authorisation for the use of certain Covid-19 vaccines so that high-risk people could get their jabs first.

Concerning the second – and typical – channel, Covid-19 vaccinations will only go to the market for vaccinating the general population after approval by the respective regulatory agencies after completing a three-phase clinical trial process, according to Lo, who said that this would require a longer period of time.

Lo said that, therefore, Covid-19 vaccinations in the near future would only be based on emergency approval.

Lo said that based on Macao’s current Covid-19 situation, the Macao government would not necessarily need to grant emergency approval for the use of Covid-19 vaccines in the city.

Lo underlined that the Macao government will heed the major principle of safety and effectiveness when importing Covid-19 vaccines. Lo said that the Macao government will not force residents, including frontline medical workers, to get vaccinated against Covid-19. “The vaccinations will be carried out on a voluntary basis,” Lo said, adding that the jabs will be free of charge for all residents.

No decision yet on shots for non-resident workers

Lo also said that the government has not yet decided whether people other than local residents, such as non-resident workers, will be covered by the future free-of-charge Covid-19 vaccination drive, adding that the coverage would depend on Macao’s Covid-19 situation at the time when Covid-19 vaccines are available.

Lo also said that which specific groups of residents will be covered by the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines to be delivered to Macao would depend on the number of doses of the vaccines, but the principle would be that those subject to higher Covid-19 risk and those with special needs would be the first to get shots of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines. Lo said that based on Macao’s current situation, those working in the frontline against Covid-19, such as medical workers, firefighters and police officers, as well as residents who need to travel to overseas, would be the first to get shots.

Macao has not recorded a new Covid-19 case for 164 days, while no local case has been confirmed in 253 days.

(The Macau Post Daily/Macao News)
Photo by Government Information Bureau (GCS)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

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