Hong Kong resists mandates to fix lacklustre Covid-19 vaccination effort

Many seniors are among the most vaccine-resistant. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong has no plans to boost the city's lacklustre Covid-19 vaccination effort through mandates, a top government official said.

Six months after the start of the vaccination programme, which features free shots from either BioNTech SE or Sinovac Biotech Ltd., only 42 per cent of Hong Kong's population is fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While governments in some countries are implementing mandates, those are not appropriate for Hong Kong, according to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau.

"I don't think in this case in Hong Kong there can be any mandatory requirements as such," he said in an interview.

"Hong Kong is a free society. No one can coerce you to take the jab."

Many seniors are among the most vaccine-resistant. Only 11 per cent of Hong Kong residents aged 80 and above and about a quarter of people aged 70 and above have gotten their first shots.

"A lot of senior citizens in Hong Kong enjoy very good health, but they also need to attend to a lot of medical problems," Mr Yau said.

"I think the best and most convincing voice for them is in fact their medical doctors, their families. I think the publicity and encouragement comes mainly from them."

In Hong Kong's regional rival, Singapore, 78 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated, according to government data.

Among the elderly, 87 per cent of Singaporeans over the age of 70 have gotten at least one dose.

Singapore's government has announced plans to begin easing travel restrictions, while Hong Kong last week went in the other direction and imposed tighter quarantine rules for arrivals.

To help seniors to get their shots more easily, Hong Kong officials last month began allowing the elderly to go to vaccination centres without having first scheduled an appointment online.

The government on Wednesday announced it will expand that programme to include students above the age of 12 and all persons above the age of 60.

Each student will also be able to have two adults accompany them and receive shots, too.

"As the summer holiday is coming to an end, we hope that such an arrangement will assist students and their parents who have not yet received vaccination to get vaccinated," a government spokesman said in a statement.

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