Hong Kong will receive its first batch of coronavirus vaccines as early as next month with the elderly and medical staff to get priority in a free mass vaccination government programme, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday.
Lam said city authorities in a “breakthrough” had secured 15 million shots through advance purchase deals with two manufacturers.
She told a press conference the government bought 7.5 million shots from the Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, which will deliver one million of them next month. Hong Kong has purchased the same quantity from Pfizer/BioNTech, with the first batch of one million shots available in the first quarter at the earliest.
“Our next step is for the HKSAR government to be fully prepared to provide vaccination for the public,” she said.
The vaccines will need a “rapid registration” in the city, Lam said, by enacting a regulation under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance.
Lam said the government would launch a large-scale vaccination programme next year, giving priority to groups such as medical staff, the elderly, chronic disease patients and caregivers at nursing homes. She estimated that these groups account for around three million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population.
“Free vaccines will be provided to Hong Kong citizens, so that lives will return to normal as soon as possible, so that we can resume cross-boundary activities and businesses gradually,” Lam said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech two-shot vaccine is said to be 95 percent effective and Britain this week became the first Western nation to use it in a mass vaccination programme. The US took a step closer to approving iton Thursday, after a committee of experts recommended that the Food and Drug Administration grant it emergency authorisation.
As of Thursday, Hong Kong had registered 7,291 Covid-19 cases and 114 related deaths. The government this week tightened its social distancing measures in response to a fourth wave of infections, including re-imposing a ban on dine-in services at restaurants after 6 pm.
More to follow.