By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Government’s free seasonal flu vaccination program has been extended to all Macau identity card holders since Saturday, and some 72,000 inoculations have been given to date. A local physician said the vaccination rate needs to be boosted but the Health Bureau (SS) has confirmed that there is no plan to review the city’s flu prevention strategy at present.
Vice-president of the general assembly of the Macau Physician Association of Public Hospital, Pak Ki Man, told the Macau Daily Times yesterday based on the size of Macau’s population, the current flu vaccination rate was “not high”.
Pak said the Government needs to continue to urge local people to take the shots, “since no one can predict how serious the results [of not being inoculated] will be, especially as there were already death cases reported in Hong Kong and other places”.
The SS did admit that the number of people having received the seasonal flu vaccines is lower than last winter between late 2009 and early 2010 at around 100,000.
It stressed in the Sunday press statement that “a new series of publicity activities will be launched shortly to encourage people to get inoculated”.
However, a spokesman of the bureau confirmed to the MDTimes yesterday that the Administration at the moment does not intend to modify the existing flu prevention strategy or the publicity tactics as a way to boost the vaccination rate.
Nevertheless, Pak said it was a “good move” for the Government to extend the free vaccination program to all Macau residents, which he believed will be able to drive more locals to have the vaccinations.
Besides the Government, he said it also needs the support from social organisations to encourage the residents to join the program.
The physician told the MDTimes that he believed the low vaccination rate may be attributable to “people’s laziness”, adding that “locals don’t care much when no fatal case is reported [in Macau] just like the situation before the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS]”.
Meanwhile, the SS said 90,000 vaccines have been prepared for the 2010-2011 winter flu season and there are still about 20,000 left which will be “enough” to cope with the demand in the near future.
It explained that the vaccination program was extended in response to recent reports in various places where an increasing number of severe influenza patients were members of the non-high-risk groups, and serious and fatal cases mostly occurred in young adults who were never inoculated against Influenza A H1N1 or seasonal flu.
However, the over 75,000 imported workers in Macau are still being excluded from the free vaccination program.
Residents who have held a Macau identity card for six months or longer can receive the inoculations at any of the SS Health Centres, Kiang Wu Hospital’s vaccination stations, the outpatient clinic of the University Hospital or the workers’ clinic of the Federation of Trade Unions.
Over the last three days, some 3,100 residents received the shots, taking the total number to about 72,000 to date, the bureau said.
The SS reiterated that vaccination is the “best way” to prevent influenza, and urged people to get inoculated as soon as possible as experience shows that the peak period of influenza is between February and March every year in Macau.