A nurse prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, in Garlan, western France, on May 31, 2021. (FRED TANNEAU / AFP)
HONG KONG - Hong Kong’s 240,000 teenagers aged 12 to 15 can get BioNTech's Comirnaty jabs starting Monday, as the financial hub races to build herd immunity against COVID-19.
The teenagers can start booking shots on Friday morning and get their first dose at 24 community vaccination centers as early as Monday, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said at a briefing on Thursday.
The Hong Kong government also announced on Thursday that the city’s air travel bubble with Singapore will be under review in early July for new arrangements
“The next three months will be very crucial for Hong Kong to build a shield (against the COVID-19 pandemic). Residents are urged to get their first shot by the end of August,” Nip said.
In addition to online bookings, the government will also offer special registration for schools and arrange school buses for the commute between campuses and nearby vaccination centers, according to Nip. The service is expected to be available on June 21.
From June 28 onwards, the government will dispatch medical workers to schools to provide on-site inoculations on the request of schools, Nip added.
When asked when the age limit would be lowered further, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said health authorities were still waiting for the German company’s data for the advisory panel of experts to review.
Speaking at the same briefing, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said if up to 70 or 80 percent of a school’s faculty and students get vaccinated, regular full-day classes would likely resume.
“If all Hong Kong residents get their jabs, the local epidemic situation will be better controlled, which means schools can have better conditions to resume normal activities,” Yeung said.
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.
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 Hong Kong government lowered the age limit to 12 on June 3. About 6.82 million residents are now eligible to receive vaccine shots.
Separately, the Hong Kong government announced on the same day that the city’s air travel bubble with Singapore will be under review in early July for new arrangements.
The quarantine-free travel plan was originally scheduled to take off in November last year but was delayed due to Hong Kong’s fourth wave of infections. It was postponed again on May 17 due to an outbreak in Singapore a week before the first flights were set to fly.
“Both governments remain strongly committed to launching the ATB with a view to resuming air travel between the two regional aviation hubs and international cities in a gradual and orderly manner under a set of stringent public health protocols,” a spokesman said in a statement.
Also on Thursday, Hong Kong reported two imported COVID-19 infections, bringing the city's tally to 11,874.
The two patients were a 20-year-old man from the United Kingdom and a 51-year-old man from Mauritania, according to a statement issued by the Centre for Health Protection. Neither of them showed any symptoms.
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