Hongkongers will soon be able to receive Covid-19 jabs on the private market, as the vaccines have been officially registered for use in the city. Health authorities also made changes to who can receive the Omicron-targeting BioNTech bivalent vaccine or the paediatric and toddler jabs free of charge, limiting those formulas to local residents.

A child receives a Covid-19 vaccine. File photo: GovHK.

The three currently available Covid-19 vaccines in Hong Kong – the original German-produced BioNTech vaccine, its updated Omicron-targeting bivalent version, and the China-made Sinovac jab – became registered pharmaceutical products in the city on Tuesday.

The Health Bureau said in a press statement on Thursday evening that the registration “reconfirms the safety and efficacy of the relevant vaccines,” and the drug manufacturers “are thriving to supply the relevant vaccines to the private market as soon as possible.”

But at the same time, the bureau announced that the government’s HK$1 billion indemnity fund, which provides financial support to people who suffered unexpected serious adverse events after receiving Covid-19 jabs, would not be applicable to vaccines administered in the private market.

“There is a considerable amount of data supporting that the registered COVID-19 vaccines are safe and efficacious, and meet the standards for safety, efficacy and quality,” the statement read.

As of Thursday, Hong Kong has administered a total of 20.2 million Covid-19 jabs. Ninety-three per cent of the eligible population has received at least 2 doses of a vaccine and 83 percent have been at least triple jabbed.

As of October 23, the indemnity fund had paid out HK$ 2 million for one post-vaccination death and nearly HK$ 73 million for 373 cases of post-jab “injury,” including hospitalisation and Bell’s Palsy.

Residents prioritised with Omicron and children jabs

The Health Bureau also announced in the same press release that non-residents of Hong Kong would no longer be able to book the Omicron-targeting BioNTech bivalent vaccine or the paediatric and toddler formulation of jabs via the government’s vaccination programme from Friday.

A young toddler receiving a Covid-19 vaccine in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

Residents would be given priority to receiving those vaccines free-of-charge due to their “tighter” demand and a longer replenishment time, the statement read. Meanwhile, non-residents can still choose to receive the original BioNTech vaccine or the Sinovac jab without charge.

Free bivalent and child vaccine options remain open for non-residents who previously received Covid-19 vaccination in Hong Kong, or had made their reservations before Friday, the bureau added.

The statement said non-residents could, however, get their Covid-19 vaccinations on the private market at their own cost.

New compulsory testing exemptions

People who hold a medical certificate proving they are unfit to undergo throat swab testing or who have mobility difficulties are no longer required to follow the government’s compulsory PCR testing orders from Friday, the Health Bureau said in a separate press release published on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, they are still encouraged to do rapid antigen tests “where necessary.”

Previously, only people who had returned positive Covid-19 test results in the past three months or children under the age of three were exempted from compulsory PCR tests.

Hong Kong reported 19,705 new Covid cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 2.42 million infections and 11,327 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.