Vaccine chief takes jab at dilly-dallying by parents

Booking numbers for BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for toddlers are far from satisfactory with authorities receiving only 750 bookings for the jab, which is suitable for children aged six months to four years old, since it was made available from yesterday.

Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan called on parents to get their children vaccinated and hopes the bookings will come through on the weekend.

Some parents took their children to get the jab at Hong Kong Children's Hospital, including a mother with her four-year-old son.

The mother said her elder daughter received the German-made BioNTech shots, but did not suffer side effects.

"Our family was cautious and rarely went outside because we knew our son was unvaccinated and was at the highest risk. Since he is vaccinated now, we hope we can go outside and dine in at restaurants more frequently," she said.

The BioNTech vaccine for toddlers is only available at four centers: Hong Kong Children's Hospital, HKU Children Community Vaccination Centre at Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong, CUHK Medical Centre and Osman Ramju Sadick Memorial Sports Centre.

Based on the 750 bookings made as of Tuesday evening, Yeung said "the population of children aged below three is around 104,000, but only nearly 19 percent of the children in this age group have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine."

But she added that the situation is understandable as parents might not be able to arrange vaccinations during weekdays.

Parents might have travel plans for Christmas holidays, "even if the time is short for receiving three doses before their departure, I hope that parents would stop their vaccine hesitancy and arrange the first dose vaccination for their children immediately, and let them receive their second dose before their trip if the time allows," she said.

Yeung's call came as Hong Kong saw 5,068 cases - 4,570 local and 498 imported - and 13 deaths, which included a 31-month-old boy.

Of the reported cases, 742 came from 522 schools, and 19 classes were suspended for a week.

Seven elderly homes and four disabled homes reported 22 infections.

Subsidised Primary School Council chairwoman Vu Im-fan said schools will still implement strict measures as 35 primary schools will resume full-day in-person classes next month.

While the Education Bureau no longer requires schools to set up plastic barriers during lunch, Vu said schools might still want to use them to lower the risk.