Children as young as 12 can book jabs from Friday

The government has announced that children as young as 12 will be able to book an appointment for the BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from Friday, with the first shots to be administered three days later.

Officials also announced on Thursday that social distancing restrictions could be relaxed at schools where a high proportion of teachers and pupils have been vaccinated.

The Civil Service Secretary, Patrick Nip, who is overseeing the city’s inoculation programme, said the government could also take steps to make vaccinations more convenient for pupils.

He said transport could be laid on from schools to 24 vaccination centres or – if more than 300 students and teachers signed up for the shots – medical staff could also be deployed to give vaccinations at campuses.

“If the schools could make such arrangements during the school term, that would be much better. During the holiday, if they are able to gather sufficient number of students, teachers and parents, we can arrange the outreach vaccination service,” he said.

“The objective is to facilitate their vaccination… we believe the three different channels could provide a flexible arrangement.”

Officials said schools could resume full-day classes if around 70 percent of teachers and pupils are vaccinated.

“If there are enough or up to a certain percentage of children and teachers vaccinated in the schools, that gives us a better position to have more school activities,” said Health Secretary Sophia Chan.

“On the one hand, the risk can be mitigated; on the other hand, they can resume these school activities that are important for the growth and development for children.”

More than 1.6 million Hong Kong residents have taken at least the first dose of the two locally available coronavirus vaccines since the inoculation drive started in at the end of February – about a quarter of the population aged above 16.