Experts agree to boosters for all BioNTech recipients

Expert committees under the Centre for Health Protection on Thursday backed the government’s plan to allow all adults to get a Covid booster shot.

At the moment, only people deemed to be at a higher risk of infection and those who opted for the Sinovac jab are able to receive a third dose, while most who chose the BioNTech vaccine are excluded.

But after a meeting reviewing the risks brought by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the experts said all adults should be allowed a booster at least three months after their second dose, with six months the optimal interval.

Professor David Hui, the chairman of the scientific committee on emerging and zoonotic diseases, said the BioNTech vaccine can offer better protection as a booster jab, but people could still choose the Sinovac jab if they wished.

Meanwhile, experts say they now believe children aged 12 and above should get a second dose if they took BioNTech for the first shot.

They recommend a gap of 12 weeks between the two doses, saying this should reduce the risk of patients developing heart inflammation.

Two doses are already advised for children aged 12 and above when it comes to the Sinovac jab, and three doses for those at a higher risk of infection.

Professor Lau Yu-lung, who chairs the scientific committee on vaccine preventable diseases, said data in Canada now shows that the chances of young male adults suffering from myocarditis after a second dose of BioNTech is reduced from one to 0.1 in 10,000, if they drag out the interval between shots from 21 to 56 days or more.

“With that projection, I would think in Hong Kong… for the very high-risk male adolescents it’s one in 3,000 or 4,000, then it will be down to one in 30,000.”

Earlier this month, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she had instructed officials to expand the Covid booster programme to cover adults who received the BioNTech vaccine, adding that she hoped this would happen in early January.