Children as young as six years old should be allowed to take the mainland-made Sinovac vaccine, the head of the government’s vaccine advisor body proposed.
Currently, only people aged 18 or above can take Sinovac’s CoronaVac, while those aged 12 or above can take BioNTech’s Comirnaty.
The chairman of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Lau Yu-lung, said yesterday he could not see why the government has to wait longer to lower the age limit for Sinovac jabs.
Children as young as three years old can get vaccinated in the mainland.
Nearly 62 percent of Hong Kong youngsters aged 12 to 19 have received their first jab of both vaccines, but pediatrician Lau from the University of Hong Kong said the vaccination rate among teenagers has reached a bottleneck and it could go up to at least 80 percent if the age limit of the Sinovac vaccine is lowered.
He added that the efficacy of Sinovac is “unquestionable,” as hundreds of millions around the world have received Sinovac jabs, including children and teenagers.
According to the World Health Organization, Sinovac jabs have 51 percent efficacy against Covid-19.
“We have administered Sinovac jabs to more than 100 youngsters in the Ap Lei Chau vaccination center and found that the antibodies they developed are not weaker, and sometimes even stronger, than their parents,” Lau said.
Lau also said that officials told him the government would talk to its lawyers about the administration’s legal responsibilities regarding vaccinating teenagers.
A survey conducted by the HKU’s pediatrics department showed that 30 to 40 percent of secondary students would like to get the Sinovac jab, Lau said.
“Many students who opted for Sinovac jabs in the Ap Lei Chau vaccination center asked if their classmates can also receive the Sinovac jab. When I told them the program was full, they were really disappointed,” Lau said.
Authorities could not respond to the demands of students quickly because “we have been too careful, and the [vetting] procedures are too rigid.”
Lau said the Department of Health’s science committee will discuss lowering the age limit, as well as whether people will need to take a booster shot at next Wednesday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, five more target groups can get vaccinated from tomorrow without an appointment at community vaccination centers, including staff of medical organizations, schools, catering businesses, care homes and construction site workers.
They can queue for 4,100 same-day tickets at 21 community vaccination centers, excepting those run by private hospitals.
Health expert expects clash in views over lowering the age threshold of Sinovac jabs
A health expert said today that there would be a clash in views among other experts in Hong Kong over the lowering of the age threshold for Sinovac jabs in the city.
The Department of Health’s scientific committee on vaccine preventable diseases is set to have a meeting next week that is expected to touch upon issues on whether to lower the age threshold of the Sinovac jabs and whether Hong Kong should administer a third Covid jab.
Speaking on a radio program this morning, the head of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, said heated debate is expected among the health experts sitting in the meeting. “Although there are studies showing high coronavirus antibody levels in children after they received the Sinovac jabs, the number of children involved in such studies are relatively low,” he said. “Health experts in Chile are currently working on a third phase clinical research on Sinovac effects on children, but the preliminary results are expected to come out in November,” he added.
However, he stressed that if Sinovac could submit sufficient third phase clinical trial data to the committee, even if they have yet published the data on medical journals, local health experts would still be able to determine the reliability of the data.
Yesterday, health expert Lau Yu-lung, who is the chairman of the committee, said there is no reason to stop teenagers from getting the Sinovac vaccine, citing primary figures from a study on teenagers receiving the jab that concluded that the level of antibodies developed in teenagers’ bodies may even be higher than in adults.
In China, the age limit for receiving Sinovac has been lowered to three, while the age limit has just been lowered to six in Chile.