Hong Kong Experts Back Sinovac Shots for Kids Ages 3 and Older
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s advisers backed lowering the age of eligibility for vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to 3 years old, down from 18 years old, as the city works to bolster Covid-19 immunity levels and reopen its border with China.
The Sinovac vaccine had good safety when administered on younger children of different ethnicities, experts serving on panels for the Centre for Health Protection said in a statement late Monday after reviewing real-world and clinical trial data. Currently, children aged 12 to 17 are only allowed to receive shots made by Germany’s BioNTech SE, the other vaccine dispensed in the city.
Secretary for Food and Health will consider the recommendation and make a final decision “as soon as possible,” said a government spokesperson. The government will request Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., the company that secured rights from BioNTech to develop and market the mRNA shot in Hong Kong, to provide information regarding extending the age limit to five, the spokesperson said.
The expansion of the eligible population comes as Hong Kong’s immunization campaign is hitting a wall. Vaccine hesitancy is ripe especially among the elderly population, many of whom refuse to even get one dose. Since the effort began in February, about 60% of residents have been fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That compares with over 80% in Singapore, its rival financial hub in Asia.
It’s critical for Hong Kong to boost its vaccination rate as it works on reconnecting with mainland China and later on with the world. China remains committed to a Covid Zero approach, which requires health care workers to track down every infection and cut off all transmission within the country. In order to open borders, Hong Kong must convince authorities that it won’t make the task more difficult.
With the return of in-person classes, unvaccinated children are facing a greater risk of infection. Last week, the government sent 120 children into a three-day quarantine after they were exposed to the family of a Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. pilot who tested positive for Covid-19, causing an outcry and frustration among their parents.
The city’s vaccination program has yet to be tested, with hardcore restrictions making it one of the few places yet to have a domestic delta outbreak. Hong Kong has reported just three locally transmitted cases of the virus since early June.
Hong Kong’s quarantine measures remain some of the toughest in the world, and have fueled concerns that it could be left behind as other places reopen their borders and accept that the virus is going to be endemic.
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