A coronavirus vaccination centre in Hong Kong which was set to close down amid a sluggish public response has reversed its decision after the programme was expanded to children as young as 12.

David Lam, chair of Medical Conscience, one of the contractors running the Queen Elizabeth Stadium Community Vaccination Centre in Wan Chai, said contractors had suspended the closure originally scheduled for the end of June.

QE vaccination centre Lam visit
Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the Community Vaccination Centre at Queen Elizabeth Stadium. File photo: GovHK.

Lam told an RTHK radio show on Tuesday the change of heart was due to the government decision to expand the programme to children aged 12 or above.

“We found out that around two dozen kids came to the centre to get vaccinated…we thought that in the future there might be a higher possibility that more kids will come,” said Lam. “There are many schools nearby, that’s why we thought we would persist for a bit longer.”

Lam initially wrote to the centre’s medical workers on Sunday to announce that the centre would close down by the end of this month. He told RTHK the decision was made as they were facing “huge financial pressure” due to the low vaccination rate.

The centre was designed to handle over 2,000 people per day, but Lam said that on some days only 200-300 people would get jabs.

Hong Kong currently has 29 community vaccination centres. Five provide the China-made Sinovac jab, while the remaining 24 offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Carrie Lam Sophia Chan Patrick Nip Covid-19 vaccination
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and government officials attend a press conference on Covid-19 vaccination on May 31,2021. Photo: GovHK.

The city has seen a relatively low vaccination rate despite an ample supply of vaccines. As of Monday, about 1,761,600 people had received at least one dose while around 1,203,200 people had been fully vaccinated.

Hong Kong has escaped the worst of the pandemic, reporting 11,879 Covid-19 infections and 210 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak over a year ago.

Quarantine hotels

Following reports that hotels designated for quarantine for incoming travellers were almost fully booked, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government would monitor the situation and liaise with hotels to see if more are willing to join the scheme.

Since December last year, travellers arriving in the city from listed regions have had to complete at least a 14-day quarantine at a designated hotel rather than at home. Currently there are 33 hotels providing around 9,000 rooms.

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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.