Government announces arrangements to administer BioNTech bivalent vaccine and fifth dose in community and residential care homes for elderly and persons with disabilities

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7th December 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Government announced today the following vaccination arrangements:

(i) Starting from 9th December, persons aged 18 or above may make appointments for receiving the BioNTech bivalent vaccine as the third dose (or the second dose for recovered persons); and
(ii) Starting from 16th December, for persons aged 18 or above and who had received four doses (or recovered adults who had received the third dose and had received the last dose or recovered for more than six months), if they choose to receive an additional dose of vaccine for better protection, they may make appointments for receiving the fifth dose (or the fourth dose for recovered persons). Relevant persons may choose to receive the Sinovac, the BioNTech ancestral strain vaccine or the BioNTech bivalent vaccine.

 At the same time, the Government has arranged for outreach medical teams to visit residential care homes (RCHs) for the elderly and persons with disabilities to administer the BioNTech bivalent vaccine for residents.

Detailed arrangements to administer BioNTech bivalent vaccine and fifth dose in community

 The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (JSC) under the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, joined by the Chief Executive’s expert advisory panel (EAP) recommended that the BioNTech bivalent vaccine can be used as an alternative to the fourth dose for eligible persons aged 12 or above or as the third dose for recovered persons in the relevant age group following the current vaccination schedule. According to the JSC-EAP’s latest recommendations issued on 1st December, the BioNTech bivalent vaccine can also be used as an alternative to the third dose for persons aged 18 or above or as the second dose for recovered persons in the relevant age group.

The Government accepted the latest aforementioned recommendations by the JSC-EAP and announced that starting from 9am on December 9, members of the public may choose to receive the BioNTech bivalent vaccine when they make appointments to receive the third or fourth dose (or the second or third dose for recovered persons). As a facilitation measure to persons in need, members of the public aged 18 or above may also make a request to staff members on site for receiving the BioNTech bivalent vaccine as the third dose (or the second dose for recovered persons) before the completed revamp of the booking system.

 As for the arrangement to administer the fifth dose, the JSC-EAP considered that if persons aged 18 or above had received four doses (or three doses with prior infection) more than half a year ago, they may choose to receive an additional dose of vaccine six months after their last dose or recovery (whichever is later) for better protection under informed consent. A similar approach also applies to immunocompromised persons aged 18 or above, with a shortened time interval of three months. The Government is currently enhancing the functions of the vaccination record system and the online booking system. Members of the public may make appointments online for the fifth dose (or the fourth dose for recovered persons) starting from 9am on 16th December and receive the dose on the same day.

The Government will closely monitor the situation of administering COVID-19 vaccines, including the BioNTech bivalent vaccine, and regularly review the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme (Programme) implemented by the Government and adjust the vaccination priority of different groups under the Programme when necessary, after considering the benefit and risk assessment by the experts and the necessity and urgency of vaccination, against the level of COVID-19 vaccine stock in Hong Kong. At the same time, the Government will examine whether there is a need to launch a new round of the Programme next year having regard to the latest scientific evidence and experts’ recommendation, including whether there is a need to regularise COVID-19 vaccination, the priority groups recommended to receive vaccination under the Programme, and the vaccination arrangements for the general public and various designated groups such as the elderly, healthcare staff, RCH residents and staff, teachers and students, etc, provided by the public and private medical sectors.

Detailed arrangements to administer BioNTech bivalent vaccine and fifth dose in RCHs for elderly and persons with disabilities

According to the latest recommendations by the JSC-EAP, vaccination comprising a total of four doses for eligible residents of RCHs for the elderly and persons with disabilities should be arranged as soon as feasible, so as to reduce the risk of death and severe disease. Considering the current fourth dose vaccination rate of RCH residents and that the number of confirmed cases among RCH residents and staff members has been rising recently, the Government launched a new round of the outreach vaccination service special programme for RCHs on 25th November. The four-week special programme aims to boost the COVID-19 vaccination rates of RCH residents, especially that of the fourth dose, with a view to reinforcing the protection barrier for RCHs.

Taking into account overseas practices, and that the BioNTech bivalent vaccine matched with the Omicron strain is commonly detected in Hong Kong, the JSC-EAP considered RCH residents who had completed four doses (or three doses with previous infection) may choose to receive an additional dose of bivalent vaccine (i.e. the fifth dose) for better protection, while residents may also choose the Sinovac or the BioNTech ancestral strain vaccine under informed consent. In addition, bivalent vaccine can be used as an option for the third and the fourth dose for adult residents.

 In view of the experts’ latest recommendations, the Social Welfare Department wrote to various RCHs to introduce the BioNTech bivalent vaccine and indicate that residents may now choose to receive the fifth dose according to their needs. If residents opt to receive the BioNTech bivalent vaccine and/or the fifth dose, they may express their wish to RCHs. The Government will make arrangements for outreach medical teams to visit and provide vaccination as soon as possible.

Currently, residents may choose to receive the Sinovac or the BioNTech vaccine under the outreach vaccination service. Under the latest arrangement, apart from the BioNTech bivalent vaccine, RCH residents may still choose to receive the Sinovac or the BioNTech ancestral strain vaccine as their third, fourth or fifth dose.

A Government spokesman said, “The COVID-19 vaccines available in Hong Kong are safe and effective. The key to maintain the protection conferred by the vaccine is to receive suitable doses according to the vaccination schedule. As the protection conferred by the vaccines will diminish over time, we appeal to the members of the public who have not received a suitable number of doses of vaccine to get the dose(s) as soon as possible for self-protection, in particular high-risk persons such as the elderly. At the same time, the Government calls on all sectors to stay alert as well, and the RCH sector and medical teams to keep reinforcing their collaboration in boosting further the COVID-19 vaccination rate of residents in order to prevent any outbreak in RCHs.”

The spokesman added, “With sufficient data reinforcing that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, the drug manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines previously only approved for emergency use may now apply for registration in Hong Kong under the Pharmacy and Poisons Regulations (Cap. 138A). If it is approved, the registered drug manufacturer of the relevant vaccine may market and supply the vaccine to healthcare professionals directly in order to allow the vaccines to be supplied by the private market like other types of vaccines, such as seasonal influenza vaccines or human papillomavirus vaccines, paving the way for the regularisation of COVID-19 vaccination.”

HKSAR Govt Press Release

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