Expert committees issue updated recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use in Hong Kong

201

21st February 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (JSC), operating under the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health, convened a meeting on 20th February to discuss and release the updated consensus interim recommendations regarding the use of COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong.

During the meeting, the JSC reviewed the most recent scientific evidence and highlighted that all available COVID-19 vaccines, including those utilising inactivated virus and mRNA technology, have proven effective in reducing the risk of death and severe infection from COVID-19. Furthermore, early studies have indicated that the monovalent XBB mRNA vaccines may provide enhanced protection against the JN.1 variant, which has become the predominant strain of the virus in Hong Kong.

Based on their analysis, the experts issued the following recommendations:

  1. Use of Vaccines: When an adequate supply is available, the monovalent XBB mRNA vaccine, which is currently administered to high-risk priority groups, is recommended to be extended to non-high-risk priority groups, such as healthy adults, for initial vaccination if they do not require a booster dose. This recommendation considers the enhanced protection offered by the vaccine. However, individuals can still choose from other available COVID-19 vaccines, including those utilising inactivated virus and mRNA technology, based on personal preference for both initial and booster vaccinations, given their effectiveness in reducing the risk of death and severe infection caused by COVID-19.
  2. Priority Groups and Booster Vaccination Schedule: The JSC suggested that the previous recommendation remains applicable throughout the year. Therefore, a booster dose is recommended to be administered at least six months after the last dose or COVID-19 infection (whichever is later), regardless of the number of previous doses received. This recommendation aims to provide enhanced protection to the following high-risk priority groups:
    • Older adults aged 50 or above, including those residing in residential care homes.
    • Individuals aged 18 to 49 years with underlying comorbidities.
    • Individuals aged six months and above with immunocompromising conditions.
    • Pregnant women.
    • Healthcare workers.