Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau is urging Hongkongers to get vaccinated not only for Covid-19 but also for flu as the winter influenza season approaches. He and other officials received both jabs at the same time on Thursday to show it was safe to do so.
Lo visited the Sai Wan Ho general out-patient clinic on Thursday afternoon to get jabbed. Also present for vaccination were permanent Secretary for Health Thomas Chan, Director of Health Ronald Lam, Centre for Health Protection Controller Edwin Tsui and Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan.
Lo received his fourth shot of Chinese-made Sinovac and then the winter flu jab a couple of minutes later.
“I remember at the beginning of last year when I received my first Covid vaccine, I said I could feel the protection. Likewise today, I could feel that my protection against Covid-19 was strengthened, and at the same time, I am being protected against the seasonal flu,” the health chief told reporters.
“This time – left [arm] for flu jab and right [arm] for Covid vaccine – it is a different feeling, as we used to get them on separate occasions.”
Lo said the government’s Scientific Committees had advised in August that it was safe to have Covid-19 vaccines at the same time as other vaccines. He urged Hongkongers to follow suit because immunity against the seasonal influenza had “reduced drastically” over the past two years of strict social distancing measures. The consequences of contracting both Covid-19 and the winter flu would be dire, Lo warned.
People can get their seasonal flu shots from October 6 at clinics operated by the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health. The flu vaccines will also be available at Covid-19 community vaccination centres in a bid to encourage people to get both.
Student Health Service Centres and Maternal and Child Health Centres will also provide both types of vaccine.
Winter flu vaccine outreach programmes for schools and care homes will start earlier on September 29. As of late August, more than 1,180 schools had signed up for the programme, Director of Health Ronald Lam said.
Easing Covid-19 measures
When asked whether the government would consider further easing Hong Kong’s border control and quarantine policies, such as scrapping mandatory hotel quarantine, Lo said the government “is considering every option to try to improve our economic activity, as well as our connection with the international world.” Authorities were constantly reviewing policies and an announcement would be made “at the right time,” he added.
Chief Executive John Lee has said he would announce changes to quarantine rules “as soon as possible.”
Public health experts, politicians and the business sector have been calling for further relaxations of restrictions, saying Hong Kong is losing talent and its status as a major finance centre to neighbouring cities such as Singapore.
“The World Health Organization has said recently that the global pandemic has not yet come to an end. Our own experts also mentioned there may be another wave in winter and an emergence of new variants. As a responsible government, we need to ensure there will not be a rebound [of cases],” Lo said.
Hong Kong recorded 5,990 new Covid-19 cases and 17 related deaths on Thursday, bringing to total since the pandemic began to more than 1.73 million infections and almost 10,000 deaths.