Government appeals to residential care homes and healthcare sector to support new measures to expedite vaccination (with photo)

     The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, and the Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, jointly hosted an online briefing this evening (July 22) and appealed to residential care homes (RCHs) and healthcare organisations for their support for new measures on outreach vaccination, so as to further boost the COVID-19 vaccination rate and better protect residents of RCHs for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

     Mr Sun said, "With the dedication and efforts of various parties in arranging vaccination for residents and stepping up explanation to ease concerns, the vaccination rates for the first and second doses among RCH residents have increased to about 93 per cent and 87 per cent respectively. However, with the recent rise in cases in RCHs alongside the persistently high level of community infections and considering the vaccination rate for the third dose is only standing at 39 per cent, it is necessary for us to speed up vaccination in RCHs."

     Professor Lo said, "The elderly is one of the high-risk groups who are most severely impacted under the COVID-19 epidemic. The elderly population in Hong Kong aged 80 or above is close to 400 000. According to statistics of the fifth wave of the epidemic, the death rate in cases of COVID-19 infection is as high as 16.23 per cent for the unvaccinated in this age group. However, for those who had received three doses of vaccine, the death rate can be reduced to 1 per cent. Protecting RCH residents is the top priority of our anti-epidemic work. We will launch a special programme with a target of not missing any resident who is ready to be vaccinated and getting them vaccinated as soon as possible."

     Noting that most residents who were infected in the fifth wave of COVID-19 have recovered and are due for the third dose soon, both Secretaries said they expected the RCHs and medical teams to press ahead with their close collaboration and vaccinate based on the principle that persons who are suitable for vaccination should get vaccinated. The Government's objective is to increase the vaccination rate of the second dose to over 90 per cent within August, and to provide the third dose to all suitable RCH residents by the end of September, with a view to increasing the vaccination rate of the third dose to at least 50 per cent. By then, including recovered residents who had received two doses of vaccine, it is expected that more than 80 per cent of RCH residents could fulfil the requirement under the third stage of Vaccine Pass, i.e. an effective vaccination rate equivalent to the third dose, for enhanced protection of residents and the building of a protective barrier for RCHs.

     From next Monday (July 25), the Government will invite medical teams to visit their matched RCHs at least once a week for outreach vaccination service for six weeks. A special allowance will be provided accordingly to cover the additional manpower and transportation costs. The Department of Health has also recruited additional medical teams to participate in outreach vaccination, in order to further expedite the vaccination progress. Furthermore, for the minority of residents who remain unvaccinated due to objection on their part or from their relatives, the Government will continue to join hands with the medical teams and RCHs to enhance explanation for easing their concerns.

     Mr Sun added, "We are thankful to the RCH sector for its ongoing active support of anti-epidemic measures and reinforcement of barriers for RCHs. The third-dose vaccination rate of RCH staff has exceeded 75 per cent (see Note). I am confident that the RCHs will continue to enhance communication with the medical teams, and fully co-operate with the Government to implement appropriate measures according to the pandemic situation, which include requiring all RCH staff to undergo nucleic acid tests once every seven days starting from next Wednesday (July 27)."

Note: RCH staff who have yet to receive third-dose vaccination are mainly those who have received the second dose within six months, or are within six months after their recovery with no additional vaccination requirement.

Ends/Friday, July 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 19:53