31st March 2023 – (Hong Kong) In response to recommendations from the Joint Scientific Committee under the Centre for Health Protection, the Hong Kong government has announced a new COVID-19 vaccination programme for 2023. The plan prioritises five high-risk groups for an additional booster shot, while non-priority groups can continue to receive the first three doses for free.
Starting from 20th April, citizens not belonging to priority groups who wish to receive a fourth dose must pay for it themselves and go to a private clinic, following the arrangement for seasonal flu vaccines. Those who have already made an appointment for their fourth dose will not be affected.
Priority Groups Eligible for Free Booster Shots
The five priority groups eligible for a free booster shot are individuals who:
- are 50 years old or above (including those living in nursing homes)
- are adults aged 18 to 49 with chronic illnesses
- have weakened immunity and are six months old or above
- are pregnant
- are healthcare workers
Those belonging to the priority groups, regardless of the number of doses received in the past or whether they have previously contracted COVID-19 (counting from the later of the two), can receive a free booster shot in 2023 after receiving the last dose or testing positive for COVID-19 for over six months.
Changes to Vaccination Services
Citizens not belonging to the priority groups who have not contracted COVID-19 can still make online appointments for the first three doses for free at any time. The government will stop providing the “Home Vaccination Service” from 15th April, as the demand for it has significantly decreased. Qualified individuals who have not registered but wish to receive the vaccine through this service can call the hotline (5688 5234) or register online before the deadline.
The government is also updating its computer system to support the new additional booster shot service, which will be available for eligible citizens to book online starting from 9am on 20th April. Children aged 5 to 11 who are eligible can receive their third dose at child vaccination centres, while citizens aged 50 or above and children under 18 can receive their third dose at community vaccination centres.
Starting from April 1st, the new phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme will be handed over from the Civil Service Bureau to the Health Bureau and the Department of Health for coordination. Additionally, the monitoring and updating of vaccination data will be released through press releases on a quarterly basis, instead of monthly. The government will continue to publish other relevant information and data related to vaccination on the dedicated webpage for the 2019 Coronavirus Vaccination Programme.
Furthermore, the government has announced that eight public health emergency regulations, including measures for border control, social distancing, mandatory testing, and providing epidemic prevention and control information, enacted under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap 599), will expire at midnight on April 1st. Any remaining measures implemented under these regulations will also be lifted. However, two provisions (Cap 599K and 599L) related to vaccination under Cap 599 will be retained to complement the vaccination-focused prevention and control measures.