The Hong Kong public will be able to receive a Covid-19 vaccine targeting Omicron variants as their fourth dose from Thursday.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. File photo: U.S. Secretary of Defense, via Wikicommons.

Online bookings for the German-made BioNTech bivalent jabs, to be administered as an alternative to the existing first-generation BioNTech vaccine and the Sinovac jab for the fourth dose, opened on Sunday following the arrival of the vaccines late last week.

Speaking on a radio show on Monday morning, Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung said around 11,600 bookings had been made.

The bivalent vaccine will be available at government-run vaccination centres, hospitals and private clinics, and offered to those aged 12 or above.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Omicron is the dominant coronavirus variant around the world and is “significantly more transmissible” than Delta, its predecessor. The organisation identified Omicron as a “variant of concern” last November.

Omicron was responsible for Hong Kong’s fifth and worst wave of Covid-19, which saw infections and related deaths soar in February and March.

Elderly people queue up for vaccination. File Photo: GovHK.

There are over 500 sublineages of Omicron circulating globally. The virus tends to affect the upper respiratory tract and causes milder symptoms than previous variants, the WHO said.

The BioNTech bivalent vaccine targets the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, currently the prevalent strains in Hong Kong.

11,600 bookings made

Yeung, the city’s civil service chief, said on an RTHK show on Monday morning that the 11,600 bookings for the Covid-19 bivalent jab were “within expectations.”

“We expected that people would want more comprehensive protection [against Covid-19],” Yeung said.

A street in Central. Photo: GovHK.

Asked whether Hong Kong would offer the bivalent vaccine as an alternative for the first, second or third jab, Yeung said the decision to administer it as a fourth dose was based on the advice of health experts.

She added that a vast majority of the Hong Kong public have already been double- or triple-jabbed, with the percentages standing at 93 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively.

Hong Kong recorded 8,033 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday. The number of new infections daily over the past week has fluctuated between 7,000 and 9,000-odd cases.

As of Sunday night, the city has seen 2.09 million cases and 10,692 Covid-19 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, according to government figures.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.