HONG KONG - After a delay, Hong Kong is finally expected to start its voluntary vaccination programme as soon as next Friday (Feb 26) with Chinese drug Sinovac slated to arrive in the territory on Friday (Feb 19).
Speaking at a briefing on Thursday (Feb 18), Civil Service Secretary Patick Nip, the minister helming the city's vaccination roll-out, said the Sinovac jabs will be made available in five community vaccination centres and 18 public general outpatient clinics for priority groups.
Inoculation will be rolled out first to high-risk groups, including healthcare staff, workers in nursing and disability care homes, people over the age of 60, those in the disciplinary forces, and cross-boundary workers.
The government is expecting one million doses of the Sinovac vaccine to arrive on Friday and another million from Pfizer-BioNTech doses by the end of February.
In March, the government will expand the access of Sinovac vaccines to private doctors enrolled in the programme, Mr Nip said, adding that there are about 2.4 million people in the priority groups.
There will be 29 community vaccination centres islandwide, and 1,200 private doctors from 1,500 clinics have been roped in to help with the roll-out.
Of the 29 centres, 24 will provide jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech and the remaining centres will offer the Sinovac ones. Each centre will only offer one type of vaccine and will operate for at least six months.
"When the Sinovac vaccines arrive in Hong Kong tomorrow (Feb 19), being properly stored and arranged from next Tuesday, we will accept bookings for immunisation and finally kick-start the programme from Feb 26," said Mr Nip.
He stressed that those who want to get vaccinated at the centres or outpatient clinics operated by the Hospital Authority must make a booking in advance.
"The booking system will allow us to reserve sufficient vaccines based on actual bookings to reduce wastage," Mr Nip said.
He said the government will monitor the vaccination situation in the first month of the centres' operation before expanding the programme to those with chronic illnesses and then those aged between 16 and 59.
Separately, a number of local delegates to the country's top advisory body travelled across the border to Shenzhen on Thursday morning to get the second dose of Sinopharm's vaccine.
The city recorded eight new infections on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 10,820 and the number of deaths to 197 since the pandemic started.
All eight cases are due to local transmissions. Dozens were quarantined after they were found to have come into contact with patients during the Chinese New Year gatherings.