Macau, China, 11 May – Around 330,000 doses of swine flu vaccine (A/H1N1), which cost the government some 44.6 million patacas (US$ 5.58) to purchase last year, are still unused and will expire in September, Lei Chin Ion, director of the Health Bureau (SSM), said Monday during a press conference.
To cope with the outbreak of H1N1 flu last year, the government last November ordered a total of 700,000 doses of swine flu vaccine from a healthcare company in Switzerland, Novartis, at a cost of 135 patacas per jab, according with today’s The Macau Post Daily.
Among the 450,000 doses that have already been delivered to Macau, some 330,000 are still unused and will all expire in September, according to Lei.
"It was impossible for us to estimate [the number of people who would take the vaccine," Lei said, adding, "If I had known in June last year that only around 110,000 people would take the vaccine, I would only have ordered 110,000 jabs."
Lei also said that the government’s original idea was to provide an opportunity for Macau’s 540,00 inhabitants to take the vaccine.
"If the situation of the swine flu were serious, I believe all the residents would take the vaccine," Lei said.
According to an SSM statement Monday, the number of people who got a flu shot stands at just 116,014.
Lam Chung, coordinator of the Health Bureau’s disease control and prevention centre, said Monday that just around 20 percent of local residents and around 10,000 migrant workers – out of a total of 72,8000 – had been inoculated against swine flu.
Lei said that the government intended to donate part of the unused vaccines to poor countries, but that it was still waiting for approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) to do so.
He added that the government was discussing with Novartis to change the order for 250,000 doses of swine flu vaccines, which were still to be delivered to Macau, to vaccines for seasonal flu and rabies at the same price over the next three to five years.
Lei said a new type of seasonal flu vaccine, which includes the antibodies for the H1N1 flu, would arrive in Macau in September.
The pandemic flu alert level still remains at six, which is the highest level, according to Lei.
According to the SSM statement Monday, a total of 3,608 people in Macau have so far been infected with swine flu, with two fatalities and 17 patients infected with pneumonia.
Meanwhile the Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Cheong U, will attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva next week, after which the government will decide the prevention arrangement for the next phase, according to the SSM.