The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights (HKCCR) expresses our grave concern on the Government’s intention to lower the vaccine pass age limit to include children as young as five years old. Currently, young people aged 12 and above needs to show their vaccine pass (2-3 jabs) when entering restaurants, malls, supermarkets, markets, swimming pools, sports premises, places of worship and other premises.
This drastic move raises serious concerns for children’s rights and welfare. This move will bar some children from engaging in activities that are essential to their development, as well as shrinking their family and social lives further. This is in the context where school children have already been banned from taking part in many extra-curricular activities in school.
Researchers have warned lockdowns, school closures, virtual learning, disruption of social connections, lack of play space and activities, to name but a few, have all resulted in a lost generation of delayed physical, mental and academic development. This is particularly so for children with special needs and children in poverty. The practicability of issuing vaccine pass at such young age should also be carefully studied.
The proposed measure also raises child care and child protection concerns. Parents normally will bring along young children for grocery shopping in public wet markets. We worry that some young children may be left at home alone, risking their safety.
Besides, children at this young age normally do not have their own phone. It is also impractical to ask them to carry a paper proof with them wherever they go. Asking families to buy extra phones for this purpose create huge burden to low-income families. It is particularly harsh for families with more than one child.
Looking at the world and local health authorities, it has always been emphasized that vaccination against Covid-19 is an effective way to reduce the occurrence of severe disease and mortality. We support vaccination but there are more effective measures to encourage vaccination, and it is not the only means of preventing the spread of the virus. Simply lowering the age of vaccine pass would not be an effective way to relieve the concerns from parents with vaccine hesitations.
The pandemic has catastrophically disrupted children’s life in many ways, not just limited to infections and physical complications. Our Committee urges the authorities to use all means to reach out to school children and parents to explain the value of Covid-19 vaccinations and understand their concerns and hesitations. Vaccinations should not be a pre-condition for children’s fundamental rights. This will only harm children physically and mentally, and undermine their welfare.