Clinic sees rush for jabs on ‘bubble’ plan

The operator of a community vaccination centre said on Tuesday that he’d seen a surge in people coming in for jabs in the past few days after the government announced plans to require patrons of businesses such as restaurants, cinemas and gyms to receive at least one dose.

The government said it intended to extend its “vaccine bubble” arrangement to more businesses ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday at the start of February.

Samuel Kwok, who runs the Kwun Chung community vaccination centre, told RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme that the proposal appears to be boosting uptake, even among elderly people.

He said there had been a “rapid surge” in people seeking the Sinovac vaccine, especially from January 1 and in particular among people seeking a first dose. Just under 70 percent of the population in the SAR is fully-vaccinated, but only around 21 percent of people aged 80 and above have had one jab.

Kwok told RTHK’s Samantha Butler that many people were still keen to use the Sinovac vaccine, despite studies suggesting it had lower efficacy than the BioNTech jab, the other vaccine available in Hong Kong.

“Sinovac, which is an inactivated vaccine, they elicit in the body not just the antibody protection, it also elicits the T-cell immunity, which is not mentioned in those studies,” he said.

“So I still think that Sinovac is effective even though it does not have a higher antibody level in protection against this coronavirus infection.”

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on Monday that the public had responded positively to the vaccine bubble plan, with the number of people receiving a first dose hitting a one-month high on Sunday.

Official figures show that the number of vaccine doses passed ten million on Monday, when 38,000 doses in total were delivered, including 17,000 first doses.