Hong Kong Overtakes U.S. in Covid Vaccinations After Slow Start
Hong Kong has fully vaccinated 55.8% of its population against Covid-19, surpassing the U.S., but has yet to announce plans to reopen its borders.
The Asian financial hub has administered almost 8.7 million shots from BioNTech SE and Sinovac Biotech Ltd., after high levels of vaccine hesitancy initially curbed demand for the inoculations that protect against infection, severe disease and death. The city has maintained a Covid Zero approach since the start of the pandemic, with no local outbreaks reported for more than three months. That reduced the urgency, for many, of getting shots.
Meanwhile, an outbreak continues to sicken thousands of Americans, mostly unvaccinated, every day. Many of the 55.7% who are already fully vaccinated may get even more protection, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared booster shots for those given the immunization from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted their use for people at high-risk of contracting the virus from their workplace or who are in danger of falling seriously ill if infected.
A Ways to Go
Hong Kong is still struggling to get elderly citizens to show up for even one dose. Only about 15% of people aged 80 and older have received an initial injection, a number the government says it is “frantically” trying to boost. The city started allowing walk-in slots for all age groups starting Sept. 22.
Hong Kong is still far from the target leaders said it needs to hit for reopening. It won’t consider shifting its zero-tolerance Covid-19 strategy to one of “living with the virus” until 80% to 90% of the population is vaccinated, a top adviser told Bloomberg. The goal was later confirmed by Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan, in an interview with Bloomberg Opinion.
Hong Kong’s vaccination rate started to edge higher after the commercial sector stepped in with shopping coupons and lotteries to win an apartment for those getting immunized. Reluctant to introduce mandates, the government has created policies designed to encourage vaccinations, including longer indoor dining hours and access to nightclubs and karaoke for those who are immunized.
The U.S., one of the first places to authorize Covid vaccines, has already fallen to last among the Group of Seven countries in immunization levels. Hong Kong joins a raft of others in Asia, including Singapore, mainland China, Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan, that started later but are now outperforming the U.S. in protecting against the virus.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.