Sinovac for 3-year-olds? Hong Kong parents should have BioNTech option as well, pharmacists group chief saysjessie tan
Hong Kong parents should also have the option of BioNTech jabs for their younger children, the head of the city’s pharmacists association has suggested ahead of a Monday (Nov 15) meeting expected to determine if children as young as three will be allowed to take the Sinovac vaccine.
Sinovac’s mainland Chinese manufacturer last month applied to city authorities to lower the minimum vaccination age for its coronavirus shot from 18 to three-years-old. Neither of the two drugs currently approved for use in Hong Kong are available to those under the age of 12.
William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, said Sinovac’s request seemed likely to be granted given that more than 100 million children between the ages of three and 17 had now been vaccinated in mainland China.
But the available data on Sinovac trials among children remains limited, especially among those aged under five, he told a local radio programme.
Chui said the government’s advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines, which will convene on Monday afternoon, should look at more evidence before following the mainland’s lede in allowing children as young as three to be inoculated.
That argument, however, was based less on Sinovac’s safety — there have been few reports of adverse effects — than concerns over its effectiveness.
“Sinovac’s efficacy rate among adults is only about 50 per cent. So will children also need a third shot?” he asked, referencing a recent government recommendation that residents inoculated with Sinovac get a booster shot.
The advice last month from Hong Kong’s joint scientific committee under the Centre for Health Protection even specified that taking the BioNTech jab as a booster would be preferable.
Given the higher efficacy rate of the German-made vaccine, at more than 90 per cent, Chui suggested experts discuss whether it could also become an option for children aged five to 11.
“So parents and children will have one more vaccine option,” he said, adding that lowering the age limit for the jabs would both protect children and drive up the vaccination rate.
The health authorities lowered the age limit for the BioNTech vaccine to 12 in June, but the German manufacturer has not submitted applications seeking to further lower the age limit for its vaccines.
Chui also noted that mainland China is so far the only place in the world where children as young as three have been approved to receive the Sinovac vaccine.
Chile has lowered the age limit for the vaccine to six, while Brazil will decide later this month whether to allow children aged three to 11 to take the Sinovac vaccine, he said.
In an exclusive interview with the Post earlier this month, senior Sinovac executives said the latest data showed their vaccine was safe for babies as young as six months old.
The company last month submitted data to the Hong Kong government from the first two phases of trials focused on immune response and safety findings among mainland Chinese children aged three to 17 who had received the vaccine.