A few weeks ago, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the goal of providing vaccines to all as “the biggest moral test before the global community”, underlining that everyone, everywhere must be included.
Guterres raised awareness on the fact that just 10 countries – mostly wealthy countries – have so far administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines available, while more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.
Having the ability to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is currently one of the highest luxuries a world citizen can enjoy.
In a small Special Administrative Region, privilege goes as far as every resident being able to choose between three different types of Covid-19 vaccines they could get for free.
However, interestingly most residents in that same city have so far refused to be vaccinated.
The special Macau vaccination plan was kick-started for priority groups on February 9 and for the general population on February 22.
However, as of today, some 43,901 people have made appointments to be vaccinated – about 6.4 percent of the population (683,100 people); 19,028 of them have already received the first dose, for an average of 761 people vaccinated in the 25 days since the vaccination plan rollout.
At this rate, it would take about 14 months to vaccinate at least half of the local population, and 27 months to vaccinate everyone.
Vaccination rates are expected to increase, and local authorities have indicated they have the capacity to vaccinate at least 5,000 people per day, although it is obvious that level has not yet been reached.
Health authorities keep saying that the vaccination rate is “satisfactory”, but it is curious it has progressed so slowly.
The reasons local residents have for avoiding to get the vaccine are already known. Many people just don’t see the need to get the shot if no immediate advantage is provided.
With no cases in the city and no possibility to travel abroad or avoid having to quarantine even if they were vaccinated, most residents simply cannot be bothered, especially since many have lingering anxiety over some exaggerated possible negative side effects.
Some just want to wait and see what happens with other people after getting vaccinated. Some are so afraid of the possible negative side effects they bluntly refuse any vaccination.
The millions of dubious pieces of “news” found online which tell of people whose faces became partly numb after being inoculated, and the recent death of a 63-year old after being vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine, even if he already suffered from many serious underlying illnesses, have not helped either.
But are these reasons valid enough to avoid being vaccinated?
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that many local residents with relatives abroad seem to be more willing to be vaccinated, either because they realise how rare it is to have the privilege to be able to be inoculated, or they have been relatively impacted by the disease, or maybe they wish to be able to visit their relatives in a safer way.
Just the fact that we have a choice of more than one type of vaccine should already be mind-blowing for most people abroad.
Of course, vaccination should be optional and voluntary, but will local authorities have to offer something in return to achieve complete local coverage? Cash handouts? Sanmiu supermarket vouchers? Keychains? A sticker saying ‘I got vaccinated’? Hire KOLs to livestream vaccinations over Tik Tok?
The only way out of this seemingly long nightmare for the whole world will be through gradual vaccination, and whether or not no cases are reported in Macau, a sense of urgency should be fostered.
Local authorities have already explained clearly that only after at least 50 percent of the population is inoculated will entry and exit policies and requirements be eased, and maybe normal travel with Hong Kong and possibly other regions will be reinstated.
Chinese central authorities will also likely be more willing to ease requirements for tourists travelling to Macau – the lifeblood of our economy – if most of the people in the city have been vaccinated.
So, if not out of a sense of duty towards your community’s health or out of self-preservation, even if only out of complete self-interest and to satisfy the desire to return to some kind of pre-pandemic ‘normal life’: just do it.