The first COVID-19 vaccination programme for the public ran smoothly as long queues outside the vaccination centres quickly dissipated after peak hours.
Online booking for the COVID-19 vaccination programme was made available to priority groups last Tuesday, February 23. According to the government press release, the vaccination programme was met with great enthusiasm by the public as all available slots between February 26 to March 11 were fully booked by 4pm on the first booking day.
The programme officially started administering the Sinovac vaccine on Friday, February 26, at 5 Community Vaccination Centres and 18 General Outpatient Clinics of the Hospital Authority. But regardless of the full quotas, the staff members were quick to handle the long lines of people queueing outside of these vaccination centres.
One of the staff stationed outside the community vaccination centre at the Hong Kong Central Library in Causeway Bay on Saturday said that the nurses at the centre work “very fast” and that the queues were only long right before the centre opened at 8am and after the lunch break.
According to the staff member, once the recipients arrive at the centre, they are required to scan the “LeaveHomeSafe” QR code before getting briefed on the vaccine they will receive. The recipients will then be led to one of the 15 booths at the centre to receive their vaccination and will remain at the centre for 15 to 30 minutes to observe any immediate side effects before they are allowed to leave. The staff member added that the whole vaccination process takes around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of the day.
The government hopes to administer the maximum throughput of 2500 doses per day. Vaccination centres are also encouraged to meet the maximum throughput as the government promises to provide a subsidy of $72 per dose for partner healthcare organizations.
The residents waiting outside the vaccination centre in Causeway Bay were also keen on getting their vaccine for protection regardless of the side effects.
“I know there are side effects,” a retired Hongkonger who was in his 70s said, “but it only affects a small number of people and I still want the protection.”
The vaccination fact sheet produced by the Department of Health says that the very common side effects such as headaches and fatigue affect around 10% of people. The more uncommon and rare side effects only affect 0.01% to 0.1% of the population.
Although the vaccination process is generally smooth-sailing, some of the eligible members had trouble with the booking – a group of elderly passersby near the Hong Kong Central Library mentioned that they tried to book a slot online on Tuesday but were unable to do so as the quota filled up quickly.
An interview with Victor Chan Chi-ho, a community official from the New People’s Party in Hong Kong, done by the Global Times, revealed that the vaccination website had crashed on Tuesday as many people tried to book a slot for the vaccination.
But the second online booking session for the Sinovac vaccine will be made available to the public on Monday, March 1, at 9am. The public can book a slot until March 26 at 8 Community Vaccination Centres and 18 General Outpatient Clinics of the Hospital Authority.