Macau requests AstraZeneca suspend delivering jabs: health chief

2021-04-16 05:08     Comment:0

Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long said yesterday that the Macau government has requested AstraZeneca to suspend delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine to Macau in the wake of global concerns about its safety, as there is no urgency for Macau to get this vaccine considering Macau’s stable COVID-19 situation and the sufficient number of doses of the two types of COVID-19 vaccines available in Macau, China’s Sinopharm inactivated vaccine and Germany’s BioNTech mRNA vaccine.

AstraZeneca has agreed to the Macau government’s request for the delivery suspension, Lo said.

The Macau government had placed a purchase order of 400,000 doses of the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca-Oxford adenovirus vector vaccine, which was initially slated to be delivered to Macau in the second half of this year.

Lo made the remarks while speaking to reporters at the Services Platform Complex for Commercial and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries in Nam Van after yesterday’s opening ceremony of the annual National Security Education Exhibition.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last week that it had found a possible link between AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and reports of very rare cases of blood clots in people who had received the shot.

The Health Bureau admitted earlier this month that Macau’s COVID-19 vaccination rate was still low as many residents did not think that there’s any urgency to be inoculated against COVID-19 due to the city’s stable novel coronavirus situation.

Macau has purchased 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and all the doses have been delivered to Macau. In addition, Macau has ordered a total of 400,000 doses of BioNTech vaccine. Three batches of BioNTech vaccines have been delivered to Macau – 100,425 doses in the first batch, 19,500 doses in the second batch and 29,250 doses in the third batch. The remaining BioNTech doses – over 90,000 doses – that have not been administered from the first batch that was affected by packaging defects last month have been sealed up until the manufacturer comes up with the final findings of its investigation into the packaging defects.

Promoting inoculations ‘more important’

Lo was asked by the media yesterday about the Macau government’s purchase order of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Lo said that a more urgent task for the Macau government was to encourage more residents to have COVID-19 jabs. Lo noted that two types of COVID-19 vaccines are available in Macau – Sinopharm and BioNTech, adding that the number of doses of the two vaccines that have been purchased by the Macau government will be enough for residents to get their jabs.

Lo revealed that the Macau government has requested AstraZeneca suspend the delivery of its vaccine to Macau. Lo said that the Macau government will review and study reports and research analyses concerning the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine expected to be published worldwide, as well as the latest policies on AstraZeneca inoculations to be made by the authorities in different countries and regions, after which the Macau government will “comprehensively” study the information before “deciding how to handle the matter for the next step” – i.e. deciding whether to go ahead with its purchase order of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“It is the [Macau] Special Administrative Region government which has requested the delivery suspension,” Lo said.

Lo noted that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) “has not come up with a definite comment” as to whether the AstraZeneca vaccine should continue to be used. But he was quick to add that according to its latest suggestion, the WHO still suggests that the benefits of AstraZeneca inoculations outweigh the risks, which he said, means that, AstraZeneca vaccinations are still recommended for countries and regions affected by COVID-19.

“As we have a sufficient number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine for residents to get their jabs, there is no urgency that Macau must import the [AstraZeneca] vaccine,” Lo said.

Lo said that the Macau government will maintain close communication with AstraZeneca on the matter, adding that “both sides have the obligation to ensure the vaccine safety”.

The Health Bureau reaffirmed last month that it did not plan to cancel its purchase order of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

No jabs for pregnant women

Meanwhile, Lo was asked by the media about Hong Kong’s two recent cases in which two pregnant women who had received COVID-19 jabs later suffered a miscarriage. Lo said that based on Macau’s COVID-19 situation and the vaccination safety uncertainty concerning pregnant women, pregnancy is one of the contraindications listed by the Macau government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, so the Macau government does not inoculate pregnant women against COVID-19.

Lo said that while the two cases in Hong Kong have been classified as post-vaccination adverse events, scientifically and internationally there is no sufficient evidence indicating that COVID-19 inoculations can lead to miscarriage. Lo noted that different countries and regions have different suggestions as to whether pregnant women could have COVID-19 jabs after assessing the benefits and potential risks, and that countries and regions being hard hit by COVID-19 appeared to be more likely to suggest that pregnant women can be inoculated against COVID-19.

Lo also said that while the findings of animal testing show that mothers’ COVID-19 vaccinations do not have any impact on the foetuses, there is still a lack of findings from clinical trials on humans on the matter – i.e. pregnant women.

Lo said that the National Health Commission (NHC)’s guidelines suggest that women who did not know that they were pregnant when they received their COVID-19 jabs should not undergo an abortion but should not have the second jab, adding that in case this happened in Macau, the government would not administer the second jab.

Lo, who became Macau’s new health chief early this month, underlined that Health Bureau medical workers carry out health assessments on all people before giving them COVID-19 jabs, such as asking whether they are pregnant and whether they have any chronic disease.

Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long speaks to reporters at the Services Platform Complex for Commercial Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries in Nam Van yesterday. Photo: Prisca Tang

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