Government announces follow-up arrangements for suspected abuse in the issuance of Medical Exemption Certificates
Regarding individual private doctors suspected to have failed to provide proper medical consultation to patients in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Health (DH) and abused the issuance of COVID-19 Vaccination Medical Exemption Certificates, the Government announced today (September 27) that all Medical Exemption Certificates issued by the private doctors concerned will not be accepted and will be invalidated from October 12 onwards. Members of the public who hold a Medical Exemption Certificate issued by the private doctors concerned may consult other doctors depending on their needs to determine whether they are suitable for receiving COVID-19 vaccination, or may continue to be medically exempted.
According to the information provided by the Police, seven private doctors (details at Annex) are involved in the Police’s arrest operations to date for allegedly abusing the issuance of Medical Exemption Certificates. The legal proceedings are ongoing for some of those cases. At the same time, the Health Bureau and the DH have also referred the relevant cases to the Medical Council of Hong Kong for follow-up.
The guidelines issued by the DH to doctors have listed in detail the medical reasons for being not suitable for vaccination. Doctors should only issue a Medical Exemption Certificate after verifying that the person concerned is not suitable for receiving the CoronaVac and Comirnaty vaccines currently provided in Hong Kong. When considering the issuance of Medical Exemption Certificates, doctors are required to refer to the guidelines issued by the DH and follow the Code of Professional Conduct for the Guidance of Registered Medical Practitioners when making clinical judgements to decide whether a patient’s condition satisfies the listed medical reasons for not being suitable for vaccination.
According to the eHealth records, the seven private doctors aforementioned have issued in total over 20 000 Medical Exemption Certificates which are still within the validity period, accounting for more than half of the Medical Exemption Certificates that are still valid. The Government has reasonable grounds to suspect that the private doctors concerned did not properly follow the guidelines of the DH when issuing the Medical Exemption Certificates. In this regard, the Government will no longer accept the Medical Exemption Certificates previously issued by the doctors concerned as proof of the holders being unsuitable for receiving COVID-19 vaccination. For members of the public holding a Medical Exemption Certificate issued by the relevant doctors, they may consult other doctors as necessary to assess whether their physical condition is unsuitable for receiving COVID-19 vaccination and obtain a new Medical Exemption Certificate from the doctor. Having considered that the citizens concerned may need time to consult other doctors, the Medical Exemption Certificates issued by those seven private doctors will be deemed invalid from October 12 onwards.
A Government spokesman cautioned that, once an improper Medical Exemption Certificate was used to enter premises subject to the Vaccine Pass, information in the QR code will be recorded by the scanner at premises subject to active checking and Government enforcement officers are also entitled to require citizens to present their Vaccine Pass, including the Medical Exemption Certificates QR Code. If a member of the public is found to have used an invalid or fraudulent Medical Exemption Certificate upon verification, the relevant information will be passed to enforcement departments for follow-up. Using a false instrument knowingly may contravene the Crimes Ordinance. The maximum penalty upon conviction is imprisonment for 14 years. Members of the public are urged not to defy the law and not to use Medical Exemption Certificates obtained through improper means.
The Government reiterated that the act of using fraudulent Medical Exemption Certificates goes against the Government’s strategy of sparing no efforts in boosting the vaccination rate to build an immunity barrier. It severely undermines the achievements attained through the persistent efforts of the Hong Kong community in combating the epidemic. Boosting the vaccination rate is of paramount importance to strengthen the effectiveness of the immunity barrier, and helps safeguard citizens’ health, particularly that of the elderly, the young and the chronically ill. It is also vital to the resumption of economic activities and daily life for the Hong Kong community and citizens. In fact, based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, most people are suitable for receiving the two vaccines currently provided in Hong Kong. Both vaccines are able to reduce the risks of severe illness and death arising from COVID-19 infection in a safe and efficacious manner.
The Government will continue to closely monitor the issuance of Medical Exemption Certificates by doctors. If any irregularities, contravention of the Code of Professional Conduct for the Guidance of Registered Medical Practitioners or criminal acts are found, the Government will handle the cases seriously and pass the relevant information to the Medical Council of Hong Kong and enforcement departments for follow-up as appropriate.