HK's vaccine slots booked in one day as city opens reservations
City likely to achieve immunity barrier by end of 2021: experts
Published: Feb 23, 2021 09:48 PM

A Cathay Pacific pilot gets the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination center in the Hong Kong Central Library on Tuesday, as frontline workers and high-risk groups are the first in line to be vaccinated. Photo: VCG

On Tuesday, the first day that reservations opened for Hong Kong residents to get their COVID-19 vaccines, all slots in the following two week were immediately booked. Observers believe that the city may achieve an immunity barrier by year-end.

As of 4 pm on Tuesday, about 70,000 people had reserved their first and second doses online, and all slots available between Friday and March 11 were taken, according to the regional government website.

Some 200 people were expected to get their first shots on Tuesday afternoon but the program will only officially start on Friday at five community centers and 18 general outpatient clinics across the city, the regional government said.

After the government opened the registration channel on Tuesday, registrations reached 42,000 within hours, and the 18 general outpatient clinics are fully booked, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday, hinting at wide acceptance of vaccines among Hong Kong residents. 

Macao started a massive vaccination project on Monday and some 15,000 residents had signed up for the vaccines. 

To boost public confidence, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and several secretaries took their first shots of the Sinovac vaccines in a live broadcast on Monday, a day before the city opened the sign-up channel to people from priority groups. Lam said Tuesday she did not have any adverse effects after the shot.

The online registration website crashed at one point due to the large number of visits on the first sign-up day, Victor Chan Chi-ho, a community official from the New People's Party in Hong Kong, told the Global Times. 

In talks with local residents, Chan found many would like to get the shots as soon as possible and had the intention to get mainland-produced COVID-19 vaccines, especially those produced by Sinopharm. It's a pity that the regional government did not introduce Sinopharm vaccines to the city, Chan said. 

Some were disappointed by the small number of sites that the government set up, Chan said, calling on the Hong Kong regional government to continue seeking the help of the central government and increase the supply of mainland-produced COVID-19 vaccines. 

The first five community vaccination centers to commence operations will provide Sinovac vaccines while the 24 community vaccination centers, which will subsequently commence operations, are planning to provide the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccines.

The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine would be delivered to Hong Kong on Thursday at the earliest, Hong Kong Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said on Tuesday. 

Generally speaking, each community vaccination center with 15 booths can provide around 2,500 shots a day at the most, according to the regional government. 

Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the goal for Hong Kong is to get most of its residents, ideally 60 or 70 percent of the total population, vaccinated by the end of 2021. 

Hong Kong expects to cover most of its citizens by the end of this year, Chan Siu-chee, director of Hong Kong's Food and Health Bureau, announced on January 13.

If Hong Kong can stick to anti-epidemic measures such as wearing masks and washing hands, an immunity barrier can still be achieved when about 30-40 percent of the population is vaccinated, Jin said, or by the second half of the year.

When most people in priority groups are vaccinated, the program will open to the general public gradually, Jin said.

There have been rumors that the vaccine Lam received was not Sinovac's, because the syringe used was different from previous ones, in a bid to discourage public confidence in the regional government. 

The Global Times learned that the Sinovac vaccine has two types of packages. One is a pre-filled syringe and the other is a bottle, from which vaccine needs to be extracted. The Pharmaceutical Society of Hong Kong has said that the regional government bought vaccines from Sinovac that are in bottles.

Chan said this again reflects the fact that some opposition politicians make groundless speculation to discredit products from the Chinese mainland and discourage the public's confidence in the regional government.

Most Hong Kong residents are still susceptible to the coronavirus, so vaccinations and achieving an immunity barrier are essential for Hong Kong to reopen and boost its economy, observers noted, slamming such behavior of smearing the regional government and tearing apart society.

Kevin Choy, a Hong Kong resident, told the Global Times he is considering booking an appointment for a vaccine for his father, and either Sinovac or Fosun Pharma/BioNTech is fine with him. His father is 70 years old and belongs to the priority group.