Visitors enter and exit a community vaccination center in Hong Kong on Aug 18, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
Hong Kong has fully vaccinated 55.8 percent of its population against COVID-19, surpassing the United States.
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.
The Asian financial hub has administered almost 8.7 million shots from BioNTech SE and Sinovac Biotech Ltd
On Saturday, Hong Kong reported five new imported COVID-19 cases, bringing the city’s tally to 12,226.
The new patients included a man and a woman from India, a woman from the Philippines, and two men from France and Germany. They were all fully vaccinated and showed no symptoms of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, an outbreak continues to sicken thousands of Americans, mostly unvaccinated, every day. Many of the 55.7 percent who are already fully vaccinated may get even more protection, after the US 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.
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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is still struggling to get elderly citizens to show up for even one dose. Only about 15 percent 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 percent to 90 percent of the population is vaccinated, a top adviser told Bloomberg. The goal was later confirmed by HKSAR government’s Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan Siu-chee, 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.
READ MORE: HK govt: Teens to get only 1 dose of BioNTech vaccine
The government also requires civil servants, teachers and nursing home staff to be immunized or undergo regular testing. Booster shots won’t be available for awhile, after the city’s virus experts recommended delaying the decision until two to three months before it plans to open the border.
The US, one of the first places to authorize COVID-19 vaccines, has already fallen to last among the Group of Seven countries in immunization levels. The HKSAR joins a raft of others in Asia, including Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan, that started later but are now outperforming the US in protecting against the virus.
With inputs from Bloomberg