Early data from global studies indicate that even being fully vaccinated with two doses is insufficient in preventing infection and transmission with Covid-19. In light of this data, the government asserts taking the third dose will be “necessary.”
Dr Tai Wa Hou, coordinator of the Health Bureau’s Covid-19 Vaccination Operation, unveiled the proposed three-shot regimen at a Covid-19 media briefing on July 16.
The government is now considering the practicability of the plan to determine when the third dose, also known as a booster dose, should be administered, and who should be given the third shots.
“[Global studies show that] having a second dose is sufficient to avoid severe illness and death, but it is not enough to prevent infection and contagion. As time goes by, the potency of the vaccine guarding against Covid-19 will gradually decrease,” Tai explained.
Earlier this month, Pfizer-BioNTech revealed study results showing that people taking a third dose six months after their second dose showed antibody responses five to 10 times higher than levels after two doses.
Even though the Sinopharm vaccine is found to generate a relatively lower level of antibodies compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, this does not mean that only people inoculated with Sinopharm should take booster doses, he added.
Whether to administer the booster doses or not will hinge on the city’s supply of vaccines, Tai concluded.
Several countries and regions have already launched the three-shot regimen. On July 1, Russia was the first country to announce the launch of a booster vaccine campaign for people vaccinated more than six months ago. This move is aimed at controlling a rapid surge in cases related to Delta variants.
Early this month, U.K. health minister Matt Hancock announced that the U.K. government will purchase 60 million extra doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in preparation for a possible booster program for people aged 50 or above, slated to launch from September this year.
However, the World Health Organization said in early July that more data is needed to decide whether booster shots are necessary to maintain protection.
Sinopharm Running Low
Macau is currently running low on the Sinopharm vaccine, with current stock expected to last only around two weeks.
Macau’s stock of Sinopharm inactivated vaccines totaled 500,000 doses, with 420,000 already administered. This leaves only around 80,000 doses available for use.
“The city’s current inoculating rate of Sinopharm vaccine stands at 5,000 doses daily. Given that, the remaining stock can only last for half a month. It will be out of stock afterward,” Tai warned.
Authorities vow to work proactively on vaccine procurement, but cannot guarantee when the next shipment of Sinopharm vaccine will be delivered to Macau. Tai does not rule out the possibility that Sinopharm inoculation services will be suspended for a short period.
Meanwhile, the stock of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is considered “sufficient” and anticipated to last for 70 additional days, in light of the daily average administered dose rate of 1,000 per day.
The government is also studying the feasibility of administering a “Covid-19 vaccine cocktail,” which involves taking different types of vaccine for the first and second shots.
A Sinopharm-related serious adverse event was reported July 15, in which a 63-year-old female was diagnosed with encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
The patient received the first dose of Sinopharm vaccine on July 3. She felt dizzy and fatigued July 12 and developed fever, confusion, and had difficulty expressing herself verbally the next day.
She was admitted to the Conde S. Januário Hospital and is in stable condition.
Macau-China travel bubble cannot be compromised
The Macau government will prioritize its hard-won quarantine-free status with the mainland. Any proposed travel bubble schemes that may compromise the status quo — including the previously announced Hong Kong-Macau bubble — will not be implemented.
Leong Iek Hou, coordinator at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed the decision last Friday when questioned by the media about the timeline for the inter-city travel bubble scheme.
She emphasized that Macau’s anti-pandemic measures must be consistent with those implemented in the Mainland, because both areas are now classified as low-risk.
Macau and Hong Kong governments have engaged in close communication to discuss details of the inter-city quarantine-free scheme. Should there be any updates, authorities will announce the details in due course.