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COVID-19 booster jabs to start on Tuesday

2021-11-05 04:02     BY Tony Wong    Comment:0

High-risk cases to get shots first

Macau will start administering COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs on Tuesday next week to those who were fully inoculated against the novel coronavirus at least six months ago.

Generally speaking, the upcoming booster jab programme will cover those aged 18 or over who have received the two required shots of China’s Sinopharm inactivated vaccine or Germany’s BioNTech mRNA vaccine – the two types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Macau – at least six months ago.

In Macau, those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 refer to those who have received the second novel coronavirus jab at least 14 days prior.


2 phases 

The booster vaccination drive, which was announced yesterday, will be carried out in two phases. During the first phase, which will begin next Tuesday, the booster shots will only be given to three major groups of people, namely 1) those working in occupations that are potentially subject to a higher COVID-19 risk; 2) those with a weaker immune system such as heart disease and diabetes patients; and 3) immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients who are receiving radiotherapy, those who have had an organ transplant, and those with HIV/AIDS.

The government has still not decided when the second phase will start, during which the booster jabs will be extended to all other eligible potential vaccinees.

Except immunocompromised individuals, all other eligible vaccinees will receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose as their booster jabs. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised will be first given a third primary dose at least 28 days after having their second COVID-19 jab, before receiving a fourth dose as their booster shots at least six months afterwards.

Tai Wa Hou, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, announced the local government’s COVID-19 booster jab programme during yesterday’s press conference by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre.

Tai said that the Health Bureau (SSM) has decided to roll out COVID-19 vaccine boosters after studying clinical trial data on the matter and the administration of booster jabs around the world.


Sinopharm & BioNTech jabs

According to Tai, Macau’s COVID-19 booster jab programme will cover all those aged 18 or over who had their second Sinopharm jab at least six months ago, and those in certain age groups who have received their second BioNTech shot at least six months ago.

Currently, both Sinopharm and BioNTech shots are administered to those aged 12 or over in Macau.

According to Tai, the booster inoculation drive will cover five groups of people who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 with the BioNTech vaccine, namely 1) those aged 18 or over working in occupations that are potentially subject to a higher risk to the novel coronavirus; 2) those aged 18 or over with a weaker immune system; 3) those aged 18 or over living in retirement homes, care homes for those with disabilities or nursing homes; 4) those aged 18 or over who are planning to visit COVID-19 high-risk areas; and 5) all those aged 60 or over.

The booster shots will be available at all of the city’s 18 regular COVID-19 inoculation facilities. Potential vaccinees can start to make an appointment at 9 a.m. on Monday next week for a booster jab.


Specific groups covered by 1st phase

Tai identified more specific groups that are included in each of the three major groups of people covered by the booster jab programme’s first phase. According to Tai, those working in occupations or positions that are potentially subject to a higher COVID-19 risk comprise eight groups, namely 1) those working at border checkpoints; 2) airline crew members; 3) those working at COVID-19 medical observation quarantine hotels and other quarantine facilities; 4) those working at medical institutions; 5) firefighters and paramedics tasked with transporting those required to undergo COVID-19 quarantine or those with a positive COVID-19 nucleic acid test (NAT) result; 6) those in contact with a large number of members of the public; 7) those working in various other sectors such as the frozen food sector; and 8) those who have an urgent need to visit COVID-19 high-risk areas.

According to Tai, those with a weaker immune system, who are covered by the first phase, comprise eight groups, namely 1) cancer patients; 2) cerebrovascular disease patients, such as those who have suffered a stroke; 3) those with obesity; 4) those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); 5) diabetes patients; 6) heart disease patients, such as those with coronary artery disease, and those with cardiomyopathy – i.e., different kinds of diseases that affect the heart muscle; 7) those with chronic kidney disease; and 8) current and former smokers.

According to Tai, moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals who are covered by the booster jab programme’s first phase comprise six groups, namely 1) cancer patients who are receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy; 2) those who have received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system; 3) those who have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are still taking medicine to suppress the immune system; 4) moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome); 5) those with advanced or untreated HIV infection; and 6) those who are receiving active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress the immune response, such as those suffering systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or simply known as lupus)


4th dose for immunocompromised individuals

Tai said that different to all other eligible vaccinees, the findings of research studies worldwide suggest that moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals can only be regarded as having been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after receiving a third primary dose – which is administered at least 28 days after the second COVID-19 jab, because of which, Tai said, they will have to receive a fourth dose as their booster shots, which are given at least six months after the third primary dose.

In addition, according to Tai, moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals are covered by the booster jab programme as long as they are aged 12 or over, which is different to all other eligible vaccinees whose minimum age are 18 for the administration of a booster shot.


‘Mix & match’

Tai said that while those receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose can opt for a vaccine with a technological approach different to their first two jabs – i.e., “mixing and matching” their booster shots, the Health Bureau (SSM) is recommending that potential vaccinees should receive their booster jabs with the same technology as their first two shots.

Tai also announced that four groups of people are not covered by Macau’s COVID-19 booster jab programme for the time being, namely 1) all those aged below 12; 2) all those aged between 12 and 17 who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised; 3) those aged between 18 and 59 who have received two BioNTech jabs but are not subject to a higher COVID-19 risk; and 4) those who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 with an adenovirus vector vaccine.

According to Tai, the Health Bureau urges those who have been fully inoculated with an adenovirus vector vaccine in the mainland to receive their booster jab there. The only one type of COVID-19 adenovirus vector vaccine currently available in the mainland, CanSinoBIO, only requires one jab.


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


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