HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam received China’s Sinovac vaccine on Monday (Feb 22) together with top officials at a live televised event to bolster public confidence ahead of the vaccine’s roll-out in the global financial hub this week.
Sinovac is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be introduced in Hong Kong, ahead of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine set to arrive in the Chinese special administrative region before the end of February.
The city’s vaccine roll-out has lagged other developed cities and is far behind mainland China which started last July.
Mrs Lam, dressed in a white t-shirt and dark-coloured trousers, was filmed receiving the first vaccine in a centre set up at Hong Kong’s central library.
Her Cabinet ministers including Health Secretary Sophia Chan and Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung lined up to get vaccinated after her.
Mrs Lam appealed to all residents to take the vaccine during a press briefing following her vaccination.
“This requires the full collaboration of the people of Hong Kong to help Hong Kong’s society to recover as soon as possible," she said.
Professor Chan told Reuters the government is trying to reassure residents who are worried about taking Sinovac, stating that standards had not been lowered to accept the vaccine and that there was no pressure from Beijing to get it approved.
One million doses of the Sinovac vaccine arrived from Beijing in the former British colony on Friday. Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents can get vaccinated from Friday after applying online, beginning with priority groups including medical workers, residential care home staff and people aged 60 and older.
Residents will be allowed to choose the type of vaccine, the government said.
Anti-mainland sentiment has increased in Hong Kong since 2019 when protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against what they see as Beijing’s strengthening hold over the territory.
The lack of trust in her government has occasionally hampered virus-control measures, including when many people refused to participate in a universal testing drive backed by China because they believed it was an exercise to harvest and collect their DNA.
A January survey by the University of Hong Kong found that fewer than 30 per cent of people questioned said they would accept the Sinovac vaccine – much lower than the 80 per cent that experts say is required for herd immunity. That study found that government recommendations were the most effective way to get people go for the jabs.
Hong Kong has secured a total of 22.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Sinovac and AstraZenca. The city has recorded around 10,800 cases since last January and 197 deaths.