Heated debate looms over Sinovac age limit, booster

A health expert says there would be conflicting views among experts in Hong Kong over lowering the age threshold for Sinovac jabs in the city.

The Department of Health’s Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases will meet on Wednesday and is expected to discuss lowering the age to six for those eligible for the mainland-made Sinovac vaccine, and whether Hong Kong should administer a third jab.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said a heated debate is expected.

“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.”

Ho said if Sinovac submits sufficient clinical trial data to the committee, even if they have not yet published the data in medical journals, local health experts would still be able to determine the reliability of the data.

On Tuesday, health expert Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the committee, said there is no reason to stop children from getting the Sinovac vaccine, citing primary figures from a study on children receiving the jab, which concluded that the level of antibodies they develop may even be higher than in adults.

Lau said lowering the age limit could help the vaccination rate among teenagers reach 80 percent, citing a survey conducted by HKU’s pediatrics department which showed that 30 to 40 percent of secondary students would like to get the Sinovac vaccine.

Currently in Hong Kong, only those aged 18 and above is allowed to receive the Sinovac vaccine.

In the mainland, the age limit for receiving Sinovac has been lowered to three, while the age limit has just been lowered to six in Chile.

Ho also believed that there would be little differences among experts on a third dose of vaccine, saying that two groups of people would need to receive it.

“The first group consists of people with low to no antibodies response after they have been fully vaccinated due to old age or impaired immunity. People who have been fully vaccinated for six months will also need the third dose as their antibody levels may have dropped to a level it would not provide protection against the virus,” he said.

Ho said people could examine their antibodies level before deciding on whether to take the third dose.

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