Hong Kong firms pitch in to get staff vaccinated against Covid-19 amid govt push

Officials have repeatedly urged locals to get inoculated. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG - Some cities may be facing a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines but Hong Kong has a different problem - how to get more people to take the jabs before some doses expire in September.

Amid the government's push for the population to be inoculated, some companies have pitched in to encourage their staff to get the free jabs.

Local broadcaster RTHK on Friday (May 21) reported that Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific may make vaccination a prerequisite for staff.

The airline reportedly said in an internal memo to staff that it would not be long before it becomes unable to "sustainably roster unvaccinated crew".

About 80 per cent of its pilots have booked to be vaccinated, but less than half of crew members have done so.

Other companies like billionaire Michael Kadoorie's Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH), which runs the luxurious Peninsula Hotels chain and the iconic Peak Tram, is offering its 1,500-strong workforce cash and benefits to get vaccinated, the South China Morning Post reported.

The article, citing industry members, added that the city's construction sector, together with the government, will offer tens of thousands of workers on-site vaccinations at venues in Kai Tak on May 27 and 28.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government is reaching out to companies to offer on-site vaccinations for their employees.

"From today onwards, we are even reaching out to major companies which have a suitable venue for them to assemble their staff, say up to 150 or 200," she had said.

The same day, the outreach vaccination service team administered the jabs to more than 170 Deloitte staff.

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip, the minister overseeing the city's inoculation drive, on Tuesday said the government "is in discussion with companies from sectors such as construction, consulting and public utilities to arrange outreach vaccination for their employees".

He said he hoped the on-site service could make it more convenient for staff to get vaccinated.

Mr Nip had said in mid-April that the Pfizer-BioNTech doses had a short shelf life and the government would close the vaccination centres that offer it at the end of September. Hong Kong also offers China's Sinovac jabs for residents to choose from.

Officials have repeatedly urged locals to get inoculated, given the ample supplies which are able to cover all 7.5 million residents, so as to revive businesses and the economy sooner.

But these calls have somewhat fallen on deaf ears due to the high level of vaccine hesitancy, led by a lack of confidence in the jabs and the government, that has resulted in an unsatisfactory take-up rate.

Since the start of the inoculation drive on Feb 26, about 2.1 million doses of the vaccines have been administered to those aged 16 and above.

More than 1.2 million residents, or 16 per cent of the population, have taken their first dose.

Till now, Hong Kong has recorded more than 11,800 confirmed infections and 210 deaths, numbers that are relatively low compared to other cities in the world.

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