A Hong Kong medical expert advisory supported the government’s plan to extend its Covid-19 Vaccine Pass scheme to cover children from five to 11 years old, but some parents were concerned about children getting vaccinated and the inconvenience the policy will bring.
During Thursday’s regular Covid-19 press briefing, the Head of the Communicable Disease Branch at the Centre for Health Protection Chuang Shuk-kwan said that authorities had been looking into extending the Vaccine Pass to cover children as young as five.
The expansion would mean that children aged five to 11 will need to have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to enter restaurants and other specified premises under the Vaccine Pass scheme.
According to Chuang, more details will be revealed next week.
“There would be a transitional period of around two months to allow enough time for parents to get their children vaccinated,” Chuang said. She added that children under 12 could use the printed form to fill in their contact details and present a paper version of their vaccination record if they did not have a smartphone.
Currently, anyone aged 12 or over needs to have received three jabs or equivalent to fulfil the Vaccine Pass requirements.
‘Complicated and inconvenient‘
Connie, the parent of a secondary school student, told RTHK on Friday morning that she thought the extension of Vaccine Pass “will make things complicated and inconvenient.”
“For the age group from five to 11, they are just kids,” she said, adding that it would be troublesome as young children might be too impatient to wait for their QR codes to be scanned when entering restaurants.
Another parent who did not give his name told the public broadcaster that a lot of parents had concerns about getting their children vaccinated. “I’m not sure how popular the policy would be among parents,” he added.
Speaking on another RTHK programme, Chu Wai-lam, the vice-chairperson of the New Territories School Heads Association, said he was also concerned about the inconvenience of the proposed Vaccine Pass extension.
“Is using the printed version convenient? What if it is damaged or lost?” Chu asked.
He said the authorities should enable children’s vaccine proof to be stored in parents’ phones.
The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights said the government’s proposal to extend the Vaccine Pass to children as young as five “raises serious concerns for children’s rights and welfare” in a statement released on Friday afternoon.
The group said the proposed move would prevent some children from engaging in activities that are “essential to their development” as well as shrink their family and social lives further.
It would be “impractical” to ask children at such young age to carry a paper vaccine proof wherever they go, the committee said, adding that simply extending the Vaccine Pass scheme would not alleviate vaccine hesitation among parents, either.
‘Don’t be indifferent’
Also speaking on RTHK on Friday morning, Lau Yu-lung, a paediatric professor at the University of Hong Kong and a government advisor, said he supported the proposed expansion of the Vaccine Pass scheme.
Lau said he believed that the expansion of the scheme could help push the percentage of children with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to 90 per cent. Currently, around 66 per cent of those aged between three and 11 have been double jabbed.
Lau added that people should be considerate of children, especially as those below the age of five were more susceptible to developing serious Covid-related complications. Last month, health authorities warned that children infected with the coronavirus were at risk from developing the respiratory infection croup.
“If there is a younger kid in your household, or that you have a younger cousin, what will happen if you spread [the virus] to them?” Lau asked.
Lau said he hoped the pandemic had imparted a sense of responsibility in each Hong Kong resident. “Don’t be indifferent,” Lau added.
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