Covid-19: Expert backs extending Vaccine Pass to children as young as 5, as parents voice concerns

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A Hong Kong medical expert opinion has backed the government’s plan to expand its Covid-19 vaccine pass scheme to cover children aged five to 11, but some parents were concerned that children be vaccinated and the inconvenience the policy will cause.

A child in Hong Kong receives a Covid-19 vaccine. File photo: GovHK.

At Thursday’s regular Covid-19 press briefing, the head of the Communicable Diseases Branch of the Center for Health Protection Chuang Shuk-kwan said authorities are considering expanding the vaccine to cover children as early as five years old.

The expansion would mean that children aged 5 to 11 will need to have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to enter restaurants and other premises specified under the Vaccine Pass scheme.

According to Chuang, more details will be revealed next week.

“There would be a transition period of about two months to allow enough time for parents to get their children vaccinated,” Chuang said. She added that children under 12 could use the printed form to fill in their details and present a paper version of their vaccination record if they did not have a smartphone.

Currently, anyone age 12 or older must have received three shots or the equivalent to meet the requirements of the Vaccine Pass.

Complicated and impractical

Connie, the mother of a high school student, told RTHK on Friday morning that she thought the Vaccine Pass extension would “make things complicated and awkward”.

“For the age group of 5 to 11, they are just kids,” she said, adding that it would be inconvenient as younger children might be too impatient to wait for their QR codes to be scanned. when they enter restaurants.

A sign on Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing instructing visitors to wear a mask, use the vaccine pass and scan the LeaveHomeSafe Covid-19 contact tracing app. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Another parent who did not give his name told the public broadcaster that many parents fear having their children vaccinated. “I’m not sure how popular the policy is with parents,” he added.

Speaking on another RTHK program, Chu Wai-lam, the vice president of the New Territories School Heads Association, said he was also concerned about the downsides of the proposed Vaccine Pass expansion.

“Is using the print version convenient? What if it is damaged or lost? Chu asked.

He said authorities should allow children’s vaccination evidence to be stored in parents’ phones.

“Don’t be indifferent”

Also speaking on RTHK on Friday morning, Lau Yu-lung, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Hong Kong and a government adviser, said he supported the proposed expansion of the Vaccine Pass scheme.

Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the scientific committee on vaccine-preventable diseases. File photo: screenshot via RTHK.

Lau said he believed expanding the program could help bring the percentage of children with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to 90%. Currently, about 66% of people between the ages of 3 and 11 have been double bitten.

Lau added that people should be mindful of children, especially as those under the age of five were more likely to develop serious Covid-related complications. Last month, health authorities warned that children infected with the coronavirus were at risk of developing the respiratory infection croup.

“If there is a younger child in your household, or you have a younger cousin, what will happen if you spread [the virus] for them?” Lau asked.

Lau said he hopes the pandemic has given a sense of responsibility to every Hong Kong resident. “Don’t be indifferent,” Lau added.

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