Hong Kong kicks off COVID-19 vaccinations with Sinovac jab

Hong Kong began administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to the public, kicking off its program offering free vaccinations to all 7.5 million residents

Participants so far will be receiving the vaccine by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac. A million doses arrived in the city last week, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other top government officials were vaccinated first in a bid to bolster confidence in the program.

A poll published in January by the University of Hong Kong found that a majority of respondents in the city concerned about the Chinese vaccine's efficacy.

“I don’t think I’ll get the vaccine for the time being. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach," said Ken Cheung, a Hong Kong resident.

"I would like to see if others experience any side-effects after the injection. I’ll only consider the vaccine only when I’m sure that it has a high efficacy rate and no side-effect.”

Billy Au, a resident in his 60s, had no such concerns and was inoculated on Friday

“I’m never hesitant to receive the vaccination because I believe that there are many people in China who have received Chinese vaccines. I don’t see why I shouldn’t take it,” he said.

A panel of Hong Kong experts said the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine after two doses, 21 days apart, was 62.3%. In contrast, a study in Israel found that the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has 92% effectiveness.

Hong Kong has since struck deals to buy a total of 22.5 million doses of vaccines, with 7.5 million shots each from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Fosun Pharma, which will deliver the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to the city.

The government has so far approved the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The first million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been slated to arrive Thursday but was delayed by export procedures, the government said in a statement.

“The latest scheduled arrival date is tomorrow, so we hope that the vaccines will arrive in Hong Kong as scheduled,” Patrick Nip, Hong Kong’s civil service minister, said at a news briefing Friday.

He said such a short delay was unlikely to impact the vaccination rollout.

Another 200,000 vaccination slots will be open for booking Monday next week, Nip said.