HONG KONG: Hong Kong has approved lowering the age limit for the COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech to three years old, down from 18 years of age, as it pursues a broader campaign to incentivise its 7.5 million residents to get vaccinated.
"Adolescents aged 12 to 17 will be accorded priority to receive the CoronaVac vaccine, with a view to extending to children of a younger age group at a later stage," Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health (SFH) Sophia Chan said in a statement published on Saturday.
According to the statement, the SFH considered that the benefits of approving the extension of the age eligibility to cover those aged three to 17 "outweigh the risks".
A Hong Kong government advisory panel on COVID-19 vaccines had earlier recommended the SFH to approve the new age limit, the statement added.
The extension of the age eligibility comes as the vaccination campaign in the Asian financial hub which started in February has lagged many other developed economies, with about 67% of the population vaccinated with two shots from either Sinovac or Germany's BioNTech.
In a separate statement on Friday, the city's government said it purchased 1 million extra doses of BioNTech vaccine for the implementation of third dose COVID-19 vaccination.
Hong Kong has followed Beijing's lead in retaining strict travel restrictions to curb new COVID outbreaks, in contrast to a global trend of opening up and living with the coronavirus.
International business lobby groups have warned Hong Kong could lose talent and investment, as well as competitive ground to rival finance hubs such as Singapore, unless it relaxes its restrictions on travel.
Despite barely any recent local cases and an environment virtually free of COVID-19, Hong Kong has imposed mandatory hotel quarantine of up to 21 days for arrivals from most countries at the travellers' cost.