A survey released Tuesday has shown a likely low acceptance rate in Hong Kong for coronavirus vaccines as the government prepares to launch a free public programme.

Only 37 per cent of 1,200 adults surveyed would accept a vaccine, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) reported. It said public trust in the vaccines and government recommendations would be the driving force behind a successful vaccination campaign.

(From left) Professor Paul Chan, Professor Eliza Wong and Professor Martin Wong annoucing results from a study on Hong Kong public acceptance rate of coronavirus vaccines. Photo: CUHK.

Authorities last month announced a  free mass vaccination programme expected to start next month. But critics questioned an advance purchase agreement with China’s Sinovac Biotech, which had not conducted third-phase trials at the time. Other vaccines are also being purchased.

The study showed that people aged 65 or above were most open to receiving the vaccines, reporting an acceptance rate of 48 per cent, followed by those aged 18-24, with a rate of 40 per cent.

People aged 25-34 were least accepting of the coronavirus vaccines, with just 24 per cent in favour.

Respondents were asked: “If the government provides a free-of-charge Covid-19 vaccine within the next 12 months, will you receive it?”

Coronavirus virus covid-19 testing
File photo: GovHK.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government would not make vaccination mandatory when asked how it would incentivise citizens to take part in the scheme.

“The government will not provide monetary incentives, but we will vaccinate citizens for free,” said Lam. “If the vaccination programme in Hong Kong is mandatory, it would only be counter- productive.”

Lam also urged Hongkongers to comply with social-distancing measures, saying it would be “unnecessary” to gather with people other than close family members.

“Lunar New Year this year has to be spent in a quiet environment,” she said.

The city of 7.5 million has suffered relatively lightly from the virus, with 9,343 infections and 159 deaths since the start of the pandemic as of Tuesday, but is currently combating a fourth wave.

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

It recorded 60 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the highest daily figure this month. All were locally transmitted, with the source of infection unknown in 13 cases.

Several clusters recorded new cases. The Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry cluster recorded three more cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to eight.

People who stayed for more than two hours in No. 20, 22, 24 and 26 Reclamation Street, Mongkok, in Kam Shek House and in Lam Shek House in Ping Shek Estate at Ngau Tau Kok were ordered to undergo compulsory coronavirus testing.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.