Yearly Covid shot likely to fight Delta variant

Top News | Wallis Wang 29 Oct 2021

People may need Covid shots every year, just like with seasonal flu jabs, says pandemic adviser David Hui Shu-cheong.

His remarks came after experts from two Department of Health scientific committees on Wednesday recommended people with weak immunity and high-risk groups to get a booster shot.

Hui said on radio yesterday that many countries - including Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom - are requiring people to get a third jab because of the highly contagious Delta variant that could undermine vaccine efficacy.

It is possible people will need to get a Covid jab every year to combat the pandemic, Hui added.

"We hope a vaccine targeting the Delta variant can be developed next year so that people may get the jab every two years instead of every year," Hui said.

But social distancing measures in Hong Kong may not be relaxed even after people get the booster shot as the vaccination rate among the elderly remains too low, Hui said. And government-appointed experts have yet to discuss lowering the age limit for inoculation to under 12.

Health authorities are asking mainland company Sinovac for more data and checking with Germany's BioNTech about whether it is recommending lowering the age limit to five years old, Hui said.

He added that experts will hold a meeting to discuss the issue once they have enough data.

"Many countries have already lowered the age limit for vaccination," Hui said, adding he believes Hong Kong will soon allow children aged five to 11 to get the jab.

Currently, Hong Kong is offering Sinovac to people 18 or above and BioNTech to those 12 or above.

Hui said experts recommend that people who have received two Sinovac jabs to switch to BioNTech for the third jab because it can produce more antibodies. But he made it clear that people can make their own choice.

Some Sinovac recipients said they would like to switch to BioNTech.

"The statistics released by BioNTech are not fake, they won't lie to us. I decided to get a BioNTech jab because it can produce more antibodies," said a female resident surnamed Luk.

An elderly resident, Ho, said he will get a BioNTech booster shot as his antibody level has dropped.

Separately, the quarantine-free Return2hk and Come2hk schemes for travelers from Macau will resume from Tuesday.

The schemes had been suspended since September 25 following an infection cluster of security guards in a quarantine hotel.

Regarding testing, the government said it has tightened arrangements for medical workers at a North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre at the airport. Some 300 workers were mandated to undergo testing every three days even if they have been fully vaccinated.

This is to ensure the anti-epidemic measures are more in line with China's practices to help resume quarantine-free travel with the mainland.

As for staff who have not been working at the hospital for more than three consecutive days, they will be tested when they return to work. Such an arrangement will not be expanded to other hospitals at the moment.

But it will be expanded to other high-risk groups - including workers at quarantine hotels, cold store and community testing centers, crew members and drivers carrying patients and arrivals - in the coming month. Unvaccinated workers are required to take a test every day.

The Hospital Authority said all visitors entering its head office and administration blocks of public hospitals must scan the LeaveHomeSafe QR code from Monday. But children below 12, the elderly above 65 and those with disabilities will be exempted.

Hong Kong yesterday recorded two imported cases - from Myanmar and Belgium - taking the city's tally to 12,338 infections, including 213 deaths.

Both patients have been vaccinated. The 58-year-old crew member from Belgium carried the L452R mutant strain.

Separately, the Royal Caribbean International said it is canceling another four-night trip on Spectrum of the Seas that was set to depart on Sunday after a crew member's positive results for residual coronavirus from his infection in July. Guests will receive a full refund.

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