HONG KONG - The city's government is making it easier for the elderly to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
From Thursday (July 29), they do not need an appointment to get a jab.
About 4,600 tickets will be handed out to those aged 70 and above at 24 community vaccination centres, the government said on Tuesday (July 27).
Limited tickets will be distributed in other centres, including private hospitals, Tung Chung Community Hall and Hong Kong International Airport.
The elderly will be able to get their jabs at the centres on the same day they receive the tickets, unlike other eligible individuals.
"Depending on the response of the elderly to the same-day ticket arrangements and the actual situation, we will consider expanding the measure to cover persons aged 60 or above," a government spokesman said.
The elderly are the most vulnerable to Covid-19, with the highest risk of suffering complications and death, he noted.
"If the elderly have chronic diseases, they should get vaccinated as soon as possible for protection when the condition is stable," added the spokesman.
Hong Kong has gone for more than seven weeks with zero infections but vaccination rates, particularly for the elderly, remain sluggish.
The number of people who have had the first dose of either the Sinovac or BioNTech vaccines - the only two offered in Hong Kong - totals 3.1 million. But only 4.4 per cent of them are in their seventies and just one per cent are in their 80s or above.
Since the vaccination drive began at the end of February, 45 per cent of the city's 7.5 million population have had their first of the two dose vaccine regime.
The slow vaccination take up has been attributed to doubts about the safety of the vaccines given initial reports of deaths, lack of trust in the government, and a generally stable pandemic situation.
So far, Hong Kong has recorded more than 11,900 confirmed cases and 212 deaths - numbers that are far lower than that of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
As part of an effort to boost the overall vaccination rate in the city, the government has decided to extend from Wednesday (July 28) the period for people to book a slot for a jab. This has been extended to four weeks from the current three.
The quota of each centre will also be gradually increased this week.
Asked how far this will go in encouraging the elderly to get vaccinated , Dr Leung Chi Chiu of the Hong Kong Medical Association said:
"With only around 17 per cent of those aged 70 or above having received at least one dose in Hong Kong, we do need to mobilise all professional groups and segments of our society to encourage vaccination uptake in our elderly."
Dr Leung believes people need to be made aware that both the inactivated vaccines and mRNA vaccines offer very good protection against serious diseases for all current variants of the coronavirus.
Like Hong Kong, Singapore is also encouraging seniors to get vaccinated.
Currently, more than 70 per cent of those aged 70 and above in the Republic have received two doses of the vaccine but about 200,000 of those aged 60 and above remain unvaccinated.
Last Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appealed to them to not wait to get their jabs.
Singapore allows the elderly to walk in to any polyclinic or vaccination centre to get their jab without registration or booking beforehand.