Walk-in COVID-19 jabs for all to start tomorrow

2021-09-24 03:23     Comment:1

Tony Wong

        Addressing yesterday’s press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus situation, Tai Wa Hou, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, announced that walk-in COVID-19 inoculations will be available for all potential vaccinees at all inoculation facilities in the city from tomorrow, without any place limitations.

After the new measure starts tomorrow, according to Tai, those who have made an appointment and those who arrive at a vaccination facility for walk-in inoculations will be arranged in two queues. Tai underlined that those who have booked a jab will still be given priority over walk-in vaccinees for COVID-19 inoculations.

The government’s free COVID-19 vaccination drive covers local residents, non-resident workers and non-local students enrolled in Macau. However, all other non-locals who hold a permit to stay in Macau, such as the family members of non-resident workers employed in Macau, have to pay 250 patacas per jab – which means that they have to pay 500 patacas to be inoculated against COVID-19 considering that each person requires two jabs.

After the launch of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme in February, all people initially had to make an appointment for their jabs. However, since early June walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations became available for all potential vaccinees at all inoculation facilities in the city – but only provided that places are still available when they arrive at a particular inoculation facility.

Since early last month, all those aged 60 or over can get their walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations at all inoculation facilities without any place limitations – i.e., regardless of whether places are still available when they arrive at an inoculation facility.

Currently, walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations are available for potential vaccinees in all other age groups – but only provided that places are still available when they arrive at an inoculation facility.

Yesterday’s announcement means that walk-in COVID-19 inoculations without any place limitations will be extended to all potential vaccinees from its availability only for those aged 60 or over.

Waiting time

Tai said yesterday that with the implementation of the new measure which will start tomorrow, the bureau will release real-time information as to how many people are queuing at every inoculation facility and the expected waiting time, which potential vaccinees can check on the bureau’s COVID-19 vaccination online appointment system.

Macau’s COVID-19 vaccinations are currently carried out at 18 regular inoculation facilities, comprising two inoculation facilities at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, eight public health centres, two public health stations, the Macau Forum inoculation facility, the Mong Ha vaccination facility, as well as the private Kiang Wu Hospital, the University Hospital run by the private Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Taipa, and two clinics run by the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (commonly known as Gung Luen) – one of the city’s biggest community associations.

Two types of COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Macau, China’s Sinopharm inactivated vaccine and Germany’s BioNTech mRNA vaccine. Currently, Sinopharm jabs are administered to those aged 18 or over in Macau, while BioNTech shots are given to those aged 12 or over.

Three out of Macau’s 18 regular inoculation facilities are only used for BioNTech inoculations, namely the public hospital’s blood sample collection room, the Ocean Gardens Health Centre and the Ilha Verde Health Centre, while all other facilities, except the Macau Forum complex in Zape which offers both types of COVID-19 vaccines, are only used for Sinopharm inoculations.

Certificates for COVID-19 jab unsuitability

Meanwhile, Tai also said during yesterday’s press conference that residents can obtain an officially-recognised doctor’s certificate confirming their unsuitability for COVID-19 vaccinations in two different ways.

The first way, Tai said, they can get a certificate at any of the city’s 18 regular vaccination facilities after being assessed by a doctor there as being unsuitable for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Alternatively, Tai said, they can make an appointment at the outpatient department of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre or any health centre or health station for an assessment of whether they are suitable to be inoculated against COVID-19. Residents can also choose not to make an appointment for an assessment at the outpatient department of health centres and health stations – i.e., a walk-in assessment.

The Health Bureau (SSM) published new guidelines on Monday last week on COVID-19 vaccinations and nucleic acid testing (NAT), according to which almost the entire working population in the city, regardless of whether working in the public or the private sectors, will have to be tested for COVID-19 once every week, or even more frequently, if they have not been inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

Jab-or-test measure

All the respective public or private entities will have to draw up their own specific rules that enable them to implement the new measure that is required by the “principled” guidelines published by the Health Bureau on Monday last week. The new jab-or-test measure will start for public servants next Monday, according to which those who have not been inoculated against the novel coronavirus are required to be tested for COVID-19 every seven days. Only those who hold a doctor’s certificate confirming that they are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to certain health reasons can have their NAT cost exempted, i.e., public servants who choose not be inoculated without a health reason will have to pay for the regular COVID-19 tests themselves. A nucleic acid test costs 80 patacas.

Working group

Tai also announced yesterday that if a doctor at the inoculation facilities or outpatient departments is unable to decide whether a person is able to receive a COVID-19 jab, they will pass the case to a special working group under the Health Bureau, which is composed of representatives from various medical fields. The working group will then meet to assess the case and normally make a decision within two weeks. If necessary, Tai said, the working group will ask the person asking for a certificate to meet them.

Tai also said that as of yesterday afternoon the Health Bureau had issued 913 people with a doctor’s certificate confirming their unsuitability for COVID-19 vaccinations, 517 of whom are public servants. Tai said that the major reason for obtaining a doctor’s certificate is pregnancy, accounting for one third of the 913 certificates. A certificate for pregnant women is valid until the expected time after giving birth, Tai said.

According to Tai, the other major groups of people who have obtained such a certificate include chronically-ill patients in a momentarily serious condition and cancer patients who are receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

According to Tai, only an absolute contraindication to COVID-19 vaccine enables the issuing of such a certificate with a permanent validity as people with this absolute contraindication are permanently unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19, while a certificate due to all other types of health reasons is only valid for a certain period of time.

For instance, according to Tai, cancer patients receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy will have their certificate for COVID-19 jab unsuitability valid until they complete the treatment, while the validity of the certificate of those with a chronic disease will last until their momentarily serious condition improves. Tai also said that normally those with a fever due to a cold will be issued with an unsuitability certificate valid for one week.

51.8 pct vaccination rate

Meanwhile, Tai also said that Macau’s COVID-19 vaccination rate stood at 51.8 percent as of 4 p.m. yesterday – i.e., about 52 percent of the population had received at least one jab. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, 658,063 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to 354,099 people in Macau, comprising 48,065 who had received their first jab and 306,034 who had received their second jab.

Tai also reported Macau’s latest COVID-19 vaccination rates among different age groups during yesterday’s press conference. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, according to Tai, the vaccination rates among different age groups were: 27 percent among those aged between 12 and 19; 70.5 percent among those aged from 20 to 29; 75.2 percent among those aged between 30 and 39; 80.7 percent among those aged from 40 to 49; and 58.6 percent among those aged between 50 and 59. Concerning senior citizens, the COVID-19 vaccination rate among those aged between 60 and 69 was 33 percent, while the inoculation rate among those aged 70 or over was the lowest among different age groups in Macau.

The vaccination rate among public servants stood at around 60 percent, Tai said.

Tai also said that the inoculation rate among the working population – i.e., those aged between 20 and 60 – had reached around 70 percent by yesterday.

Tai Wa Hou, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, addresses yesterday’s press conference about the city’s COVID-19 situation. Photo: GCS

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