Saturday, December 4

MIQ worker vaccinated in China left in limbo: ‘Everyone was puzzled’

An MIQ worker asks for clarity on Covid-19 vaccines recognized in New Zealand after it was inoculated in China.

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File photo.
Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

He said there has been confusion between his employer and healthcare workers about whether he is considered fully vaccinated after receiving two doses of Sinopharm.

The Health Ministry said it is considering whether other vaccines could be allowed for border workers, but right now Pfizer is the only one recognized here.

Auckland man Thomas Wang returned to China to visit his family in January. While there, he received two doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine.

He returned to New Zealand in April and earlier this month applied for a job at a managed isolation and quarantine hotel. He said that he was told that his Chinese vaccine was not accepted.

“What I’ve done is not accepted by the employer and they just said … I’ll make another reservation for you. You have to get vaccinated again,” he said.

Wang said he then went to a vaccination center, but health workers weren’t sure what to do.

“Everybody was stumped. Everybody was wondering what to do.”

Wang said he waited an hour before staff told him he did not need to be vaccinated again.

They gave him the job at MIQ, but he said it was inconvenient because he did not have the vaccination card given to those who received Pfizer.

Instead, he received an email from a GP saying he was fully vaccinated with Sinopharm and did not need Pfizer.

Wang said he did not mind getting vaccinated again, as long as there are no health risks.

Professor Peter McIntyre, medical adviser to the Immunization Advisory Center, said international evidence shows that Sinopharm performs reasonably well when it comes to protecting people from serious illness, but is not as good at producing antibodies as Pfizer.

“Although there isn’t much detailed information, it’s probably not good enough to stop you. [from] contracting any infection, or potentially transmitting an infection as a person fully vaccinated with Sinopharm compared to Pfizer. “

McIntyre said that since Wang was working on the border, that had to be taken into account.

However, he said there is no major health problem with receiving a third dose of a different vaccine, as it could increase the likelihood of feeling a little discolored afterward.

“Well, I think I could argue quite strongly that it would be appropriate for that person to have an extra dose of Pfizer just to increase their antibody levels,” he said.

McIntyre said New Zealand needed to consider its position on people who have been inoculated abroad with different vaccines.

“I would say it is a gap … it is probably not a big gap, but nevertheless it is an important gap to fill, because these types of situations of people who have had other vaccines and what that means in various contexts in New Zealand will go up more and more “.

Unite Union represents MIQ workers. His national secretary, John Crocker, agreed that with more people vaccinated abroad returning to New Zealand and looking for work, it could become a problem.

“Not all vaccines are approved here yet, so we need to keep that in mind when we set entry rules and work on jobs that require vaccination.”

The Health Ministry said in a statement that being vaccinated is not a requirement to enter the country and is looking at the broader issue of recognized vaccines for travelers arriving in New Zealand.

He said he is preparing advice for the government and that any decision will be made public in due course.

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