Hong Kong will start offering third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to the elderly and vulnerable from November 11, with bookings to open this Friday.
On Wednesday, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee announced the launch of Hong Kong’s booster shots programme as the government estimated that 1.86 million people were eligible for priority access.
She also warned that the vast majority of Hongkongers aged over 80 remained at “very high risk” with only 15 per cent of people in that category inoculated against the coronavirus.
“Vaccination will help reduce the number of serious cases and the death rate. It will also help avoid overloading the public health care system,” Chan said, adding the virus would spread much faster in a fifth wave of infections than any that had come before.
Both of the coronavirus vaccines on offer in Hong Kong – China’s Sinovac jab and the German-made BioNTech version – will be available under the booster shots scheme.
Double-dose recipients of the Sinovac vaccine who fall outside the definition of high risk will be able to request a third dose for reasons such as travelling to places where infections are widespread. Their requests will be handled on a discretionary basis, according to the health authorities.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, said bookings could be made through the government vaccine website for community inoculation centres, while walk-in services were also available at nine public hospitals, as well as private hospitals and clinics.
Last week, two scientific committees advising the government on Covid-19 vaccines jointly recommended that recipients of two doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine should get a booster shot, with priority given to the elderly, those with weak immunity and workers at high risk of exposure to the disease.
The latter group includes health care professionals, cross-border drivers, airport workers, quarantine hotel staff and care home employees. On Wednesday, Chan revealed the government had adopted their recommendations in full.
The committees also recommended that only high-risk groups among those who had taken the German-made BioNTech vaccine should sign up for the booster shot for now.
So far 4.6 million people, or 68.7 per cent of the eligible population, have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Hong Kong. The total number of doses administered surpassed 9 million last Wednesday.