A nurse prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center, in Garlan, western France, on May 31, 2021. (FRED TANNEAU / AFP)
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced on Thursday that it will open its COVID-19 vaccination drive to children over the age of 12.
In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the government said Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee approved lowering the age limit for receiving BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine after reviewing the pandemic situation and the recommendation of the Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines.
Fosun Pharma asked the Department of Health on May 29 to lower the age limit for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine to age 12, and the request was reviewed and approved by the advisory panel of experts
“The SFH considered that the benefits of lowering the age limit for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine outweigh the risks,” the statement reads.
“Not only can it protect adolescents from COVID-19 infection, it can also enable them to resume normal school and daily life as soon as possible.”
Hong Kong has largely controlled the virus with around 11,800 infections and 210 deaths, and it widened its vaccination drive to include those aged over 16 years old in April.
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On May 29, Fosun Pharma asked the Department of Health to lower the age limit for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine to age 12, and the Advisory Panel reviewed and approved the request.
The arrangements for providing the vaccine to adolescents aged 12 to 15 will be announced early next week.
The government made the announcement as it pursues a broader campaign across the city to incentivize its 7.5 million residents to get vaccinated.
Full-page advertisements in major newspapers on Wednesday urged residents to get vaccinated "ASAP" and highlighted vaccination leave, dining offers and other rewards.
In another push to improve the city’s vaccination rate, Cathay Pacific Airways is conducting a lucky draw in which the winner can host a private party on an Airbus A321neo flight around Hong Kong. The winner and companions must be fully vaccinated, said the airline, which is also giving away 20 million reward miles to vaccinated residents.
Cathay is providing two days of leave to Hong Kong-based ground staff who get fully vaccinated. More than 80 percent of Cathay pilots and around 50 percent of cabin crew have booked or received vaccinations, the carrier said Thursday.
As of Wednesday, about 2,466,500 vaccine doses have been administered under the city’s Vaccination Programme, according to a separate government statement.
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Around 1,419,100 residents have taken their first jab while 1,047,400 have already received their second shot, it added.
Hong Kong has obtained around 4 million vaccine doses from BioNTech and Sinovac but health experts have suggested that the government should start selling some of the vaccines still in storage before they expire.
With inputs from Agencies