Children aged five to 11 will have to be inoculated with at least one jab against Covid-19 by September 30 to dine out in restaurants and enter most other business establishments in Hong Kong under an expansion of the vaccine pass arrangement, the government has announced.
But by November 30, children in that age bracket must have received two vaccine doses, health authorities on Thursday said, as they confirmed more than 11,000 new infections, the most in a single day since March 24.
Announcing details of the vaccine pass expansion, Undersecretary for Health Dr Libby Lee Ha-yun urged parents not to delay in inoculating their children.
“At the moment actually, the rate of children aged five to 11 having taken one shot has reached 83 per cent and 70 per cent for two shots,” she said. “In other words, only 68,000 children have never taken one jab. So I urge parents to get your children vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The government also revealed that the child’s vaccination QR code could be presented on paper or as a photo saved on the mobile phone of a parent or another family member, as not all younger residents carried the devices. A new function would also be added to the “Leave Home Safe” app to allow parents to save their own vaccine pass together with their child’s.
Health authorities on Thursday confirmed 11,091 new infections, including 181 imported ones, and 12 related deaths. The city’s coronavirus tally stood at 1,623,078 cases, with 9,769 fatalities.
Currently, those aged 12 or above are required to be triple-vaccinated to enter most premises citywide. The source added that upon full implementation of the extended scheme, the five-to-11 age group would need at least two doses of either the German-produced BioNTech vaccine or Chinese-made Sinovac shot to qualify.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Thursday said the plan aimed to protect children from more serious symptoms of Covid-19 that could lead to deaths.
“All data and expert opinion have fully affirmed that vaccination has a positive effect on children’s health protection,” he said, adding that the scheme was precisely to ensure the safety and health of younger residents.
The proposed extension of the vaccine pass was first reported by the Post last week, after the idea was discussed on August 30 in a meeting among government pandemic experts in which they suggested an appropriate cut-off age at five, as the BioNTech vaccine is currently not available for younger children.
The plan drew the ire of children’s rights groups, which argued it would be detrimental to youngsters’ development.
According to government data, as of Wednesday, 67.16 per cent of the city’s 502,600 residents aged between three and 11 years have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while 81.32 per cent have taken their first jab.