Youngster jabs boost hope for full class resumption

Top News | Jane Cheung 17 May 2021

Children aged 11 to 15 will be covered by a jab program sooner or later so in-person classes can fully resume next school year, the chief of the government's scientific committee on vaccination says.

Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the Department of Health's scientific committee on vaccine preventable diseases, said this followed a University of Hong Kong study of 60 minors aged 11 to 16 who were given the two jabs available in Hong Kong and did not show adverse effects.

Currently, the SAR's age limit for the Beijing-made Sinovac jab is 18 and the German-made BioNTech/Fosun is 16 after the pharmaceutical firms' initial clinical trials did not include younger recipients.

But BioNTech has carried out more research of its own on more than 2,200 recipients between 12 and 15 and found its Comirnaty jab is 95 percent effective and safe.

Speaking on radio yesterday, HKU's chair of pediatrics Lau said BioNTech will soon provide data to SAR authorities for expert review, adding it will be more convincing when considered with a similar study by his HKU team.

The HKU team recruited more than 40 minors aged 11 to 16 to take the BioNTech jab and 20 youngsters for Sinovac's CoronaVac.

From May 8, they received their first dose at vaccination centers and the second dose after 21 or 28 days.

The research - to last three years - will monitor their antibodies and immune protection against Covid-19 infection and compare the statistics with those in adult trials. Lau said they can also report their body reactions through a mobile application.

And so far, he added, the only reports of discomfort were fatigue and pain around the injection area.

"We expect preliminary data will be ready in July for the government and public to reference," Lau said.

"If we can push forward vaccination for secondary students, it is possible we can fully resume face-to-face classes in a stable manner in September or October in the coming school year."

Lau said Pfizer/BioNTech is now researching the vaccine's effectiveness and safety on young children between two and 12 while Sinovac is conducting studies on recipients from three to 18, adding such data will be available in three to four months.

By Saturday, more than 1.15 million Hongkongers had taken one vaccine dose - 502,000 for Sinovac's and 652,000 for BioNTech.

Of the total, 772,000 have completed both doses.

The vaccination rate is 17.8 percent among the 6.5 million population above 16.

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