Hong Kong virus panel agrees to lower Covid-19 vaccination age to 12

The younger group will be eligible to receive BioNTech vaccines.
The younger group will be eligible to receive BioNTech vaccines.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's expert advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccinations has agreed to expand eligibility to children as young as 12, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the city works to boost lacklustre inoculation rates.

The younger group will be eligible to receive BioNTech jabs, said the person, who asked not to be identified.

Still, the move is subject to final approval by the government, the person added. The recommendation was earlier reported by Cable TV.

Hong Kong's government said it has received an application to lower the age limit for BioNTech shots to people as young as 12 and the phase-three clinical trial data from Fosun Pharma, distributor of the vaccine in Greater China, according to a statement on Tuesday (June 1).

"The Secretary for Food and Health will consider the suggestions by the advisory panel," it added. "It is expected that a decision... can be reached in short time."

The government has routinely followed the panel's recommendations, usually within days.

That move follows approvals from the United States and Canada, paving the way for the mass vaccination of students before the start of the next school year.

Singapore also authorised vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech for children as young as 12 earlier in May.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a campaign on Monday to accelerate the city's slow inoculation rates by September, with measures such as paid leave for vaccinated civil servants and possible additional restrictions for unvaccinated citizens.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority urged all financial institutions to "strongly encourage" staff in client-facing roles or support functions to get vaccinated.

The authorities are increasingly looking to enlist businesses in the vaccination roll-out, which has been impeded by a lack of trust in the Beijing-backed government and concerns about rare side-effects.

The government has been ramping up efforts by providing incentives like reopening bars and shortening the quarantine period for vaccinated people.

In April, it opened up jabs to residents aged 16 and older.

People 16 and above are allowed to receive BioNTech vaccines, while those older than 18 can opt for shots made by China's Sinovac Biotech.

Those under 18 need parental consent to be vaccinated.