A panel of medical experts in Hong Kong says children as young as three should be allowed to receive the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine after overseas clinical trials and data from mainland China showed the Chinese-made shots were safe for children aged three to 17.

The Advisory Panel on Covid-19 Vaccines, chaired by Professor Lau Chak-sing of the University of Hong Kong, made the recommendation on Monday. The experts said they reviewed clinical trial data published in peer-reviewed medical journals, data from trials in South Africa and Chile and real-world statistics collected on the mainland.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Sinovac vaccines. Photo: Alexander Zhadan, via Flickr.

Authorities trying to tighten Covid curbs have also ordered 130 pilots on Cathay Pacific cargo flights from Frankfurt to go into quarantine, a decision which Chief Executive Carrie Lam said was affecting imports to the city.

“The relevant information indicated that the Sinovac vaccine had good safety when administered on children aged three to 17 of different ethnicities,” a government press release on Monday read. “[C]ompared with adults aged 18 or above, children aged three to 17 developed better immunogenicity response.”

The government said it welcomed the suggestion, and Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan would make a decision after the Joint Scientific Committees under the Department of Health examines the recommendation.

The authorities said they would also follow up with Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma – responsible for distributing the BioNTech jabs in Hong Kong – for relevant information on administering the German-made vaccines to children aged five to 11.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus vaccination in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

New guidelines for Cathay staff

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific will tighten guidelines for plane crew who are exempt from quarantine on return from overseas, following several infections among pilots, local media reported on Tuesday.

The airline reportedly told employees returning from regions outside mainland China to stay home for the first three days after arrival. They may only leave home for two hours at most every day, for buying food and daily necessities, exercising or seeing a doctor.

The crew members must record their whereabouts and avoid group gatherings, as well as conduct an additional rapid Covid-19 test on a daily basis during a three-day “strengthened medical monitoring” period.

Cathay Pacific
A Cathay Pacific aircraft. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Crew staff who received their last vaccination at least six months ago must receive a booster shot by the end of next April, local media reported. The guidelines take effect on Wednesday.

Hong Kong last week recorded three imported coronavirus infections involving Cathay pilots who flew back from Frankfurt. Two tested positive for the more infectious Delta variant.

The infected pilots had all stayed in the Hyatt Regency Mainz. Authorities have ordered 130 Cathay cargo pilots, who had stayed in the same hotel in Germany after November 1, to go into quarantine for 21 days.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.