(Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)

Residents will be resistant to vaccination at first – Health Bureau Doctor’s Association President

Local residents will be resistant to Covid-19 vaccination at first, but as more people get inoculated and civic associations get involved, the vaccination rollout will advance smoothly, the President of the Macau Health Bureau Doctor’s Association, Fernando Gomes, told Macau News Agency.

About one week since local authorities initiated the special vaccination plan in February some 2,000 people included in priority groups have been inoculated, with about 10,000 people already registered for inoculation.

For residents non-included in priority groups vaccination will start on February 22, with 2,200 residents expected to be inoculated on that day.

Vaccination is voluntary with attributing the low rate of vaccination applications – about 1.4 per cent of the local 683,100 population – to people not wanting to receive the vaccine during the Chinese New Year period.

In previous statements, Health Bureau Director, Lei Chin Ion, stated that at least 50 per cent of the local population would have to be vaccinated to achieve the desired level of Covid-19 group immunity.

“I think it’s a good start. It is typical of Macau residents to wait and see. I think there will be a large acceptance from people of the initiative. It’s a novelty. Macau residents will wait to see other people receiving it and then after there will be large lines for vaccination,” Gomes told MNA.

For the medical practitioner when the influential local civic associations start to mobilise and get involved in the process, the number of people registering to be vaccinated will increase exponentially.

“The fact that there is already insurance provided by Fidelidade could ease some of the fears,” Gomes noted.

Insurance company Fidelidade Macau – Insurance Company Limited was chosen out of 25 candidates by local authorities to be the official insurer for the special vaccination programme.

The insurance plan to cover death or total permanent disability directly caused by adverse reactions or side effects of the vaccination in the 90 days after inoculation.

The maximum sum insured per person will be MOP1 million with that sum reduced by half people aged 70 or above.

Health authorities have previously advised those experiencing fever or any discomfort from their existing conditions to schedule their vaccination at a later time, as residents expressed they were worried about the side effects of the vaccine or whether the three months insurance coverage was enough.

The Macau government has purchased 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm; 400,000 doses of the mRNA-based vaccine by BioNTech and Pfizer, distributed in China by Fosun Pharma; and 400,000 doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

The online platform allows residents to choose between three vaccine types but at the moment only Sinopharm vaccines available, while BioNTech vaccines will only be available by iMarch and with Oxford-Astrazenca vaccines expected to arrive in June.

However, currently, only 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines from the first lot that arrived in the city are available, which can provide immunity to 50,000 people since two shots are required.

When inquired which of the vaccines was the most popular among people who registered for the plan, local health authorities only stated that people who wished to be vaccinated earlier had chosen the Sinopharm vaccine produced by the China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

The Health Bureau official page for the vaccination page also details possible adverse reactions to each vaccine, their immunity efficiency and the recommended age groups that should receive them.

“Each case is different. The clinical data and studies are public and we know there are differences between the vaccine types […] Upon registration in the platform residents are asked if they have a history of allergies or allergies to vaccines. There will also be a health assessment by medical professionals of the people that will be inoculated,” Gomes added.

When inquired what efforts local health authorities could make to ease local concerns or distrust towards the vaccines, the Macau Health Bureau Doctor’s Association considered that so far government awareness campaigns have been very complete.

“I really think mobilising the civil associations will be the crucial step for the success of the vaccination campaign […] In cooperation with the association’s authorities should organise seminars and awareness events with medical professionals to clarify and inform residents,” Gomes added.

The fact that the Chief Executive and other top officials also volunteered to publically be vaccinated on the first day of the plan was also considered a positive step to assure residents of the safety of the procedure

The doctor also noted that eventually, people will have to receive the vaccines as it will likely become an essential requirement for travel abroad.

In an interview with weekly newspaper Plataforma, Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre Coordinator Dr. Leong Iek Hou stated that a certificate to residents will be issued that proves that the person has been vaccinated as soon as he takes the first dose.

After the second dose, a vaccination card will be provided with that information to also appear in the local personal health code.

“We can try to run away but we will have to have a vaccine certificate in our passport. It will be a necessity for public health in the short and middle term. We should not lose this opportunity, there is no alternative”