Hong Kong, China | Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 06:45 pm
Hong Kong and South Korea kicked off coronavirus vaccination drives on Friday, as momentum builds for inoculation rollouts across the Asia-Pacific region.
In seven months, South Korea expects to vaccinate 70% of its population, while Hong Kong intends to vaccinate all adults by the end of the year. After the coronavirus spread from central China early last year, both places were among the first to experience outbreaks.
However, infections remained relatively low due to strict arrival quarantine measures, widespread adherence to social distancing measures and successful trace and test programs. These latest campaigns come after their Covid-19 inoculations were launched over the weekend by New Zealand and Australia. Although the United States and Europe have easily vaccinated millions against Covid-19, many Asian countries that have done better in the pandemic have taken a more cautious approach to vaccination.
While China has so far given over 40 million of the world’s second-highest doses, its target of vaccinating 50 million before mid-February fell short of that. Health experts in Japan warn that a history of vaccine conflicts can lead to reluctance when coronavirus shots are widely available there.
South Korea televised the first shot given at a public health center in Seoul on Friday morning, with President Moon Jae-in in attendance, in an attempt to raise public confidence. “Let us all take a step forward to return to those days that we lack,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged all people to take the vaccines.
In Hong Kong, jabs were first issued on Friday to members of the public. But officials may face an uphill task of persuading people to take the SinoVac vaccines, manufactured in China, in a city where Beijing’s public mistrust runs deep. Despite the relatively low effectiveness and scant published data, city regulators approved Sinovac jabs last week. A day later, mainland China sent the first million shots.
Sinovac has yet to send its third-phase clinical trial results to medical journals for peer review, unlike rival vaccines. According to the information presented so far, the company’s efficacy rate is between 50 and 62 percent. But demand has so far been high in Hong Kong, where some 70,000 people have booked all of the injection appointments currently available. “I’m not concerned,” an elderly woman said outside a vaccination center on Friday morning.
“I have full faith in the products of our motherland.” The government of Hong Kong says it has pre-ordered 22.5 million vaccines from three companies: Sinovac, BioNTech, and AstraZeneca, for a population of 7.5 million people. A shipment of BioNTech vaccines was expected to arrive on Thursday, but it was postponed, according to officials.
More than two months after Britain initiated the first mass vaccination campaign in the West using a fully tested Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 220 million vaccine doses currently being distributed worldwide, the roll-outs in South Korea and Hong Kong are coming in.
There is high hope that the inoculations will eventually allow the world to recover from a pandemic that has killed over 2.4 million people, infected 112 million people and hammered the global economy.