No more free shots for non-residents

Non-residents will no longer be able to receive free Covid-19 vaccinations from Monday.

The government said yesterday the latest arrangement is to ensure that residents are accorded priority under its vaccination program and health-care resources are utilized prudently.

Non-residents are currently eligible to get first-generation BioNTech or Sinovac Covid shots for free, with authorities saying last month that non-residents, like visiting mainlanders, can be vaccinated for free if they have stayed in Hong Kong for at least 30 days.

However, authorities are now trying to ensure locals get priority for the BioNTech bivalent vaccine as well as the BioNTech vaccines for children and toddlers.

The government said yesterday the move to exclude non-residents came after it considered a recent increase in demand by residents for Covid-19 jabs and that private health-care organizations have also gradually launched user-pays vaccination services.

"It has all along been the SAR's policy objective to ensure a sufficient supply of vaccines for residents, and the government has procured sufficient vaccines for use," a spokesman said.

"Self-paid vaccination services provided by private health-care organizations will not affect the supply of vaccines under the government program. We would like to stress again that non-residents visiting for a short term of stay will not be allowed to receive free vaccination," he added.

The latest restriction comes after mainlanders shared their experience of getting BioNTech jabs for free in Hong Kong.

Since the reopening of the mainland border on Sunday, some private hospitals and health-care institutions in the SAR have launched user-pays BioNTech bivalent vaccinations for between HK$1,000 and more than HK$2,000.