Photo taken on Feb 26, 2021 shows a community vaccination center in Hong Kong. (WANG SHEN/XINHUA)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong has no plans to boost the city’s COVID-19 vaccination effort through mandates, a government official said, as the city announced to expand its walk-in vaccination service to include students aged 12 and above starting Friday.
Six months after the start of the vaccination program, which features free shots from either BioNTech or Sinovac, about 47 percent of Hong Kong’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, government data showed.
While governments in some countries or regions are implementing mandates, those are not appropriate for Hong Kong, according to the city’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang Wah.
I don’t think in this case in Hong Kong there can be any mandatory requirements as such. Hong Kong is a free society. No one can coerce you to take the jab.
Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, HKSAR govt
“I don’t think in this case in Hong Kong there can be any mandatory requirements as such,” he said in an interview. “Hong Kong is a free society. No one can coerce you to take the jab.”
Many seniors are among the most vaccine resistant. Only 11 percent of Hong Kong residents aged 80 and above and about a quarter of people aged 70 and above have gotten their first shots.
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“A lot of senior citizens in Hong Kong enjoy very good health, but they also need to attend to a lot of medical problems,” Yau said. “I think the best and most convincing voice for them is in fact their medical doctors, their families. I think the publicity and encouragement comes mainly from them.”
In Hong Kong’s regional rival, Singapore, 78 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated, according to government data. Among the elderly, 87 percent of Singaporeans over the age of 70 have gotten at least one dose.
To help seniors to get their shots more easily, Hong Kong officials last month began allowing the elderly to go to vaccination centers without having first scheduled an appointment online.
The government on Wednesday announced it will expand that program to include students above the age of 12 and all persons above the age of 60. Each student will also be able to have two adults accompany them and receive shots, too. The companions can also get inoculated.
“As the summer holiday is coming to an end, we hope that such an arrangement will assist students and their parents who have not yet received vaccination to get vaccinated,” a government spokesman said in a statement.
The same-day tickets will be distributed at 24 Community Vaccination Centres daily from 7:45 am on a first-come, first-served basis. The CVCs will be closed between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm daily for cleaning and disinfection, and the last session of vaccination will be held from 7 pm to 7:30 pm.
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The government reminded youths and their parents that those aged 12 to 17 are required to bring along a consent form signed by their parents for getting vaccinated. The consent form can be downloaded from the designated website of the Vaccination Programme.
About 4,600 same-day tickets will be distributed daily at 24 CVCs in August. Due to limited capacity, the CVCs at Tung Chung Community Hall and Hong Kong International Airport will each distribute 100 tickets per day, while other CVCs, except those run by private hospitals, will each distribute 200 tickets per day, the government added.
The CVCs at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Ap Lei Chau Sports Centre and Hong Kong International Airport will be distributing the same-day tickets until Aug 31.
With Bloomberg inputs