BioNTech Vaccine Uptake Jumps in Hong Kong as Younger Residents Qualify

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BioNTech SE’s Covid vaccine was in high demand in Hong Kong on Friday, with 15,700 people receiving a dose on the first day all adults ages 30 and over became eligible, government data showed.

The figure covers people who received a first dose in the 24 hours through 8 p.m. and marked a sharp increase from 10,800 a day earlier, when only those ages 60 or over and workers in high-risk contact positions qualified.

Demand wasn’t as high for the Chinese-made Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot, the only other vaccine currently available in Hong Kong. A total of 11,800 people took that one, steady with Thursday’s number. The Sinovac product has been available to the widened pool of residents since Wednesday.

BioNTech Vaccine Uptake Jumps in Hong Kong as Younger Residents Qualify

Hong Kong expanded eligibility for vaccinations as it campaigns to encourage more of its 7.5 million population to get inoculated. After the vaccine drive began at the end of February, initial uptake was muted, with only about 200,000 people -- or 5.4% of those eligible -- coming forward for shots before the criteria were widened.

Reports of seven deaths following Sinovac vaccinations added to the hesitancy, despite health authorities and experts saying that none were directly linked to the injections. Hong Kong’s coronavirus caseload also remains relatively low at 11,363 since the start of the pandemic, meaning there could be less of a rush to sign up. The city reported a death following a BioNTech shot late Friday, with the authorities studying the cause.

A Covid outbreak last week stoked a greater sense of urgency, particularly among the city’s expatriate community caught up in the cluster. Hundreds of people were taken to government quarantine centers for lengthy spells in isolation after being found to be close contacts with infected people, even if they tested negative.

With the loosening of restrictions on vaccinations, more than 70% of the population is now eligible and Hong Kong is one of the first places to expand access to such a wide age group. People can book online for their first and second vaccination slots at community centers and private clinics.

Batches of the BioNTech vaccine were flown in directly from Germany. Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. secured rights from BioNTech to develop and market the mRNA shot in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The vaccine is marketed by Pfizer Inc. elsewhere.

It isn’t yet clear if the younger adult population will ultimately help boost Hong Kong’s vaccination rate after the initial burst of pent-up demand. Daily bookings have been falling since the criteria were expanded on Tuesday. To drum up demand, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam indicated that social distancing rules may be relaxed and borders opened sooner if there is a higher vaccination rate.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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