September 29, 2022
BEIJING – More than 20,000 COVID-19 vaccination exemption certificates allegedly issued without proper medical diagnoses by seven private doctors will be invalid effective Oct 12, the government announced on Tuesday in a statement.
Residents who hold exemption certificates issued by the seven affected doctors were urged to consult other doctors to determine whether they can receive COVID-19 vaccinations or instead may continue to be medically exempted, the government announced on Tuesday in a statement
The over 20,000 exemption certificates account for more than half of all the currently valid certificates, the statement read.
The doctors are accused of abusing their power to issue the documents and failed to provide proper medical consultation to patients in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Health. By Wednesday morning, six of the doctors had been arrested, and one is still wanted by the police.
The Health Bureau and the Department of Health have referred the doctors’ cases to the Medical Council of Hong Kong for follow-up.
Residents who hold exemption certificates issued by the seven affected doctors were urged to consult other doctors to determine whether they can receive COVID-19 vaccinations or instead may continue to be medically exempted, the statement reads.
A government spokesman warned that if a person is found to have used an invalid or fraudulent medical exemption certificate upon verification, the information will be passed on to enforcement departments for follow-up.
Knowingly using invalid documentation may contravene the Crimes Ordinance and the violator faces a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
Henry Lung Hon-Fai, president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, said he believes the government’s plan to give affected patients about two weeks to consult other doctors is reasonable.
He said on a local radio program on Tuesday that the incident may put some pressure on other doctors when issuing the certificates, but as long as they act in line with the government standards, it should not be difficult to handle.
Leung estimated that less than 10 percent of the more than 20,000 patients involved have a medical need for an exemption. He urged doctors to be more cautious on the issue.
Alex Lam Chi-yau, chairman of Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, said it’s quite astonishing that the number of exemptions issued by the seven doctors was over 20,000, which shows that there is a market for the exemption documents.
He said he worries that after the police’s law-enforcement operations, doctors will be more prudent in issuing the exemption papers and perhaps some doctors will choose to not issue the files under pressure, which will in fact affect some residents’ options on vaccination matters.