A version of the BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for younger children has been approved for emergency use in Hong Kong by the Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau, the Health Bureau announced on Wednesday.

The approval of the paediatric and toddler formulation of the vaccine means that another Covid-19 vaccine could soon become available for children as young as six months old. At present, only the Sinovac jab is used for those aged under five.

biontech covid vaccine
BioNTech Covid vaccine. Photo: BioNTech.

The government was waiting for the manufacturer to provide information about the schedule and supply of the German-made jabs, according to the statement published on Wednesday.

“We call on parents to arrange vaccination for their children as early as possible without delay, thus enabling them to have early protection,” the statement read.

The city’s Covid-19 vaccination programme was expanded to six-month-olds in August, although only the Chinese-produced jab was made available to under fives. At the time, the government had yet to receive an application to approve the BioNTech formulation for younger children.

The government also expanded the Covid-19 Vaccine Pass last month. Under the new arrangements, children aged five or over must have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 jab to enter premises such as restaurants and theme parks.

Covid-19 vaccine children
Photo: GovHK.

While the government said that the decision was to better protect young children, the move has been criticised by parents, with the Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights saying that the expansion of the vaccine pass “raises serious concerns for children’s rights and welfare.

As of Wednesday, 17.68 per cent of kids aged under three and 86.52 per cent of children aged three to 11 had received a Covid-19 jab.

Hong Kong maintains a strict Covid-19 vaccination requirement, with adults required to have had three jabs to enter venues such as schools, shopping malls, and bars. Travellers who are not Hong Kong residents must have received at least two doses before visiting the city.

Since the vaccination programme began in February last year, 92.2 per cent of the eligible population have received two jabs, while 80 per cent of those eligible have received at least one booster jab.

Hong Kong reported 4,788 new Covid-19 infections and 9 deaths on Wednesday. The city has recorded 1.8 million cases and 10,246 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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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.