The Hong Kong government has announced it will roll out Covid-19 vaccinations for five priority groups next week, with the first batch of China’s Sinovac vaccines set to arrive on Friday.

Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip announced on Thursday that one million doses of the Sinovac jab will arrive in the city on Friday afternoon. Hong Kong will receive another one million vaccines from Germany-based Pfizer-BioNTech before the end of this month.

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Government officials announcing a mass vaccination programme on February 18, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The government will prioritise vaccinations for five groups of citizens, including medical workers, those aged 60 or above, caretakers at elderly homes, personnel responsible for environmental hygiene, cabin crew, cross-border drivers and disciplined forces who are often in contact with citizens.

Nip estimated the priority groups will encompass around 2.4 million citizens.

Vaccination centres

The online registration for Covid-19 vaccines will open next Tuesday, while the vaccination programme will officially commence next Friday. The government will set up 29 community vaccination centres, 24 of which will supply Pfizer-BioNTech jabs and the rest will use Sinovac.

Patrick Nip
Patrick Nip. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Most of the community vaccination facilities will be established at sports centres and will operate for at least six months. They will be run by the Hospital Authority, Department of Health, private hospitals and medical institutions and organisations, involving more than 1,000 medics. The government will deploy over 1,000 civil servants to provide assistance at the venues as well, Nip said.

The authorities will open the centres in phases based on the arrival time of the vaccines. Priority group citizens may also get their jabs at the 18 general out-patient clinics managed by the Hospital Authority, or visit over 1,200 private doctors to get vaccinated starting in early March.

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The authorities will designate outreach teams to vaccinate those living in elderly homes or care homes. The five priority groups may be extended to cover citizens with chronic disease and those aged 16 or under later.

“If Hong Kong has to completely break away from the pandemic, then everyone has to get vaccinated, to protect yourself and others,” Nip said.

A survey by Chinese University’s medical school in January found that less than 40 per cent of residents would be willing to take the vaccine.

Asked what incentives citizens have for taking part in the voluntary vaccination programme, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said the move will protect the city’s healthcare system and speed up the process of achieving herd immunity.

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File photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP.

“The protection for oneself from becoming infectious would be an incentive, it’s your own health incentive,” Chan said. “If more people are getting vaccinated… it will be fast for us to achieve herd immunity.”

On Thursday, Hong Kong recorded eight coronavirus infections, pushing the total number of confirmed cases to 10,820. It was the third time the city recorded a single-digit rise in infections this week amid a fourth wave of Covid-19 that began in November last year.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.