A concern group in Hong Kong has warned about care and developmental issues for younger residents after being flooded with complaints from anxious parents against a government move to limit the mobility of children as young as five based on their Covid-19 vaccination status.
The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights on Monday said it received more than 1,600 messages on its Facebook page and about a dozen phone calls and emails from parents, with some expressing fears about having to leave their young ones unattended at home to fulfil extended vaccine pass requirements.
Last week authorities unveiled plans to require children aged five to 11 to have at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine before entering restaurants and most government premises, such as libraries and markets.
“Some parents are concerned because their kids fell sick for a prolonged period after taking the first jab,” the group’s executive secretary Billy Wong Wai-yuk told a radio programme. “For children aged five to seven, they often tag along with their parents to places such as supermarkets … But if some parents have not decided if they want to proceed with the second jab for their child, there’s a chance they may have to leave the kid at home,” Wong pointed out. “Such risks can occur easily, so we are worried.”
Health authorities said they would announce details of the vaccine pass extension this week at the earliest, adding that children would have a two-month grace period to get the required jabs before the measure came into force.
Wong said her organisation received a dozen phone calls and emails over the past few days from parents. She also expressed worries that children could be barred from venues managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. She warned that the long-term development of children would be affected without access to public venues. Children who are poorer, living in smaller environments and with special learning needs might be particularly affected, Wong added.
“For children, they don’t understand the situation fully. They will wonder what they did wrong and feel like they are being punished if they can’t enter places,” she said. “I hope when authorities launch such a large-scale measure, they don’t just consider it from a public health and vaccination perspective, but also the long-term development of children.”
Latest statistics show more than 13,000 children under the age of two have received their first vaccine dose, representing 12.8 per cent of the demographic, while the mark is 81.2 per cent of those aged between three and 11.
Meanwhile, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists William Chui Chun-ming advised parents not to wait for the children’s version of the German-produced BioNTech vaccine, which authorities are still in talks to procure, and to take the available Chinese-made Sinovac jab instead. He said it would take some time for BioNTech negotiations to be completed.
Authorities earlier said they were making good progress on the procurement of the children’s BioNTech shot, despite comments from government pandemic adviser Professor Lau Yu-lung that a deal with the manufacturer might not be reached because it could be too costly.
Health authorities on Sunday recorded 10,683 Covid-19 infections, the most since March 24. Eight more deaths were reported. The city’s total tally stood at 1,582,399 cases, with 9,724 deaths.