Hong Kong has said that it will offer free additional doses of Covid vaccines to residents with a higher risk of illness starting on Nov. 11.
Cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, patients with advanced stage H.I.V. and people taking active immunosuppressive drugs will be eligible for the extra shots four weeks after their second doses, the Hong Kong authorities said in a statement on Wednesday.
International health officials distinguish between “extra” doses needed by people with impaired immune systems, who need multiple doses to become protected, and “booster” doses for the general population. The World Health Organization is opposed only to the latter.
Hong Kong officials said that the campaign would prioritize the city’s high-risk population at a time when its vaccination rate lags that of many other developed economies, with about 66 percent of the population fully inoculated, according to government data released on Wednesday.
The move comes as Hong Kong works to encourage China to restore quarantine-free travel from the city to the mainland. Since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong, like Beijing, has enforced stringent border restrictions that have hurt businesses and left many travelers frustrated. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has said that restoring quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the rest of China is her “top priority”; currently, only those traveling from the mainland to Hong Kong are exempt from quarantine.
Hong Kong’s decision to give extra shots to high-risk residents follows similar efforts in recent weeks in many provinces on the mainland, and appears to be part of a broader strategy to align closely with China’s “Covid zero” policy. Ms. Lam said last week that the city would strengthen its quarantine requirements and eliminate most exemptions from the mandatory, self-funded quarantine periods, which can be up to 21 days.
Caseloads in Hong Kong have remained low in recent months: the city recorded two daily new cases on average in the past 14 days, according to a Johns Hopkins University data set.
Other categories of people will be eligible for an additional shot six months after their second dose, the authorities added. They include those who have received the Sinovac vaccine, people ages 60 and over, health workers, patients with chronic illnesses and people working in certain occupations with a high risk of infection.