Ho gets Macau’s first COVID-19 jab – 595 inoculated on day one

2021-02-10 02:59     Comment:0

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng and senior officials in his administration were inoculated against the novel coronavirus at the start of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive yesterday morning, with the aim of boosting residents’ confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

Ho was vaccinated during a ceremony held at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre to mark the start of the vaccination campaign.

Ho was the first person in Macau to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after which several senior officials had their shots.

The first phase of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, which started yesterday, covers those in priority groups such as medical workers, firefighters, police officers, customs officers, air crew members, staff of social service facilities, teaching staff and casino workers.

Local residents could start to make an online appointment yesterday for their COVID-19 vaccinations, which will commence on February 22 – the vaccination campaign’s second phase. The campaign’s third phase will cover non-resident workers, non-local students enrolled in Macau and all other non-locals who hold a permit to stay in Macau.

The Health Bureau (SSM) said on Monday that the government will only decide when it will launch the third phase after assessing the operation of its COVID-19 vaccination drive’s first phase and second phase and the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Macau.

The COVID-19 jabs are free of charge for local residents, non-resident workers and non-local students. However, other non-locals such as the family members of non-resident workers employed in Macau will have to pay 250 patacas for each jab – which means that they will have to pay 500 patacas to be vaccinated against COVID-19 considering that each person requires two jabs. The vaccination drive is carried out on a voluntary basis.

Except Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon, the other four policy secretaries, namely Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong, Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U and Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário, as well as several other senior officials had their COVID-19 jabs during yesterday’s ceremony.

About 80 representatives of priority groups such as from the police and customs were also vaccinated against the disease during yesterday’s ceremony at the public hospital.

Ho’s 2 jabs before ‘2 sessions’

Ho spoke to reporters after resting for 30 minutes following his COVID-19 jab. Ho said that he will have the second shot before the end of this month – i.e. in around two weeks time – as he will attend this year’s “two sessions” in Beijing – the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – which are slated to be held early next month.

Anyone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is supposed to stay put at the inoculation facility for 30 minutes.

Ho said that he was initially informed he should be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the mainland in order for him to attend the “two sessions”. Ho said: “I think it is more suitable for me to get the jabs in Macau” as the local government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has already started.

Ho said that he didn’t “feel anything special” after having his first COVID-19 jab. “It’s like when I go to work normally,” he said.

Ho also said that Cheong will have his COVID-19 jab in one or two day’s time. He said that the government needed to “keep at least one policy secretary to be vaccinated later…until the time when we all [Ho and the other senior officials] will not have developed any adverse event, [in which case] he [Cheong] can get vaccinated”.

Ho underlined that the government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive is carried out on a voluntary basis. But he was quick to urge residents to have their jabs with the aim of helping with the city’s fight against COVID-19.

The first batch of inactivated vaccines developed by Beijing-based China National Pharmaceutical Group (also known as Sinopharm) – 100,000 doses – was delivered to Macau on Saturday. The Macau government has ordered a total of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines.

Ho said that thanks to the central government’s strong support, Macau as a small city has been able to get the COVID-19 vaccines early. He said that the remaining 400,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines will be delivered to Macau at the end of this month.

Ho also said that another kind of COVID-19 vaccine – mRNA vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech – will be delivered to Macau at the end of this month, when residents will have one more choice for their COVID-19 jabs, he said.

Meanwhile, the government’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced in a statement last night that 595 people had their first COVID-19 shot yesterday. A total of 4,033 people had made an appointment to have COVID-19 jabs by 9 p.m. yesterday, the statement said.

The vaccinations are currently carried out in the public hospital, public health centres and health stations, with a daily quota of 5,000, the statement said.

Meanwhile, addressing yesterday’s ceremony, Secretary Ao Ieong said that vaccination is “so far the most effective way for the prevention of COVID-19 infection”, considering the pandemic’s uncertainties, even though Macau is a low-risk COVID-19 area.

“The launch of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Macau can create herd immunity, which will provide better protection for residents’ safety,” Ao Ieong said.

“The Sinopharm inactivated vaccines coming into the market can provide strong support for the COVID-19 prevention and control work [in Macau],” she said.

Ao Ieong also said that thanks to the central government’s strong support and care and coordination efforts by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Macau, a total of 500,000 Sinopharm inactivated vaccines are to be provided to Macau, 100,000 of which were delivered to Macau on Saturday.

Macau has a population of about 680,000.

Ao Ieong said that Ho together with other senior officials having the COVID-19 jabs first was to show residents the government’s confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines. She said the government hoped that “residents will support the government’s vaccination campaign by having jabs in order to protect themselves, their family members and the city”.

Macau has one of the world’s lowest COVID-19 incidence rates. Since January 22 last year, 48 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Macau, 46 of which have been classified by the Health Bureau as imported, while it has classified the remainder as “connected to imported cases.” Just two of the patients are still in hospital. All the others have been cured and discharged from hospital.

Observers have described Macau as an “oasis” in the world’s COVID-19 “desert”.

A nurse inoculates Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng against COVID-19 at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre yesterday. Photo: GCS

Those in COVID-19 vaccination priority groups such as police officers attend yesterday’s ceremony at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre marking the start of the government’s vaccination campaign before getting their COVID-19 jabs. Courtesy: TDM

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