Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 13 other government bureau and department chiefs have become the first Hongkongers to receive the mainland-developed and manufactured Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine.

Lam, alongside top secretaries – including Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan – received their vaccination Monday afternoon at the community vaccination centre which has been set up in the Central Library’s exhibition hall in Tin Hau.

Three government secretaries were absent, including Secretary for Finance Paul Chan, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau, and Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing. Lam has said they will be vaccinated later, although the reasons for their absences were unclear. Chan is set to deliver the Hong Kong budget on Wednesday.

Top Hong Kong officials received their Covid-19 jabs today.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong recorded 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Monday, four of which had no identifiable sources.

We are very determined

After receiving her jab, Lam showed the press a document indicating has been vaccinated.

“I am extremely pleased that I and my principal officials have come to this community vaccination centre to receive the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine,” Lam told the press following their vaccination. “We are very determined, very committed to rolling out a universal vaccination programme in Hong Kong, so we can get ourselves out of this epidemic as soon as possible.”

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan.

An advisory panel of experts endorsed the use of Sinovac in Hong Kong last week, after the manufacturer was exempted from a requirement that it publish results of its third phase clinical trials in medical journals. The panel’s convenor, Wallace Lau, previously said the vaccine had an overall efficacy rate of 50.66 per cent, and – if the second dose of vaccine is taken after a 28-day break – the efficacy rate would increase to 62.3 per cent.

“The experts’ panel has conducted two lengthy meetings, read hundreds of pages of data and documents, and also looked at the efficacy of the vaccine in other places” before they recommended the vaccine to the government, she said. “I have to assure every Hong Kong citizen, that the government is very serious about the safety, efficacy and quality of vaccines. We will only use vaccines that meet those high standards.”

“We hope residents will support our vaccination scheme in the spirit of protecting ourselves and others,” she added.

Secretary for justice Teresa Cheng.

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.

Lam thanked the Beijing for their assistance, as well as scientists who developed the vaccine, and other government departments and civil servants who assisted in delivering the doses. She said the community will be able to better resist the virus if more Hongkongers received vaccination.

Responding to a question from the press about the brand of vaccine used, Lam said the German vaccine BioNTech, acquired by Fosun Pharma also approved for emergency use in Hong Kong, is “very demanding” in terms of low temperature storage and dilution, and therefore will be more suitable for use in a more sophisticated medical environment. The Sinovac vaccine, on the contrary, could be easily administered at thousands of private clinics, Lam said.

Hong Kong recorded 10,869 coronavirus cases and 197 deaths thus far by Monday.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.