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Vaccine recommendations updated

The two scientific committees under the Centre for Health Protection met today and discussed the possibility of easing quarantine measures for vaccinated close contacts and the use of mRNA vaccines in pregnant and lactating women.   Scientific Committee on Emerging & Zoonotic Diseases Chairman Prof David Hui told reporters after the meeting that they discussed whether close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases could be exempted from the existing quarantine measures if they are fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines.   Prof Hui said: “For close contacts who have received two doses of vaccine, two weeks after the second dose, they will have enough antibodies, and the antibodies should be at a quite stable level.   “At the same time, we would also check the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (result) more than once, from day one and perhaps day three and day six. We may also supplement (this with) the antibody test, and we are still considering this.   “They will spend seven days in quarantine centres. So we are not just relying on the vaccination record, we are also performing PCR testing and probably antibody testing as well.”   The committees emphasised that in view of the limited data and concerns about emerging COVID-19 variants, it is considered that the current quarantine practice on close contacts should continue until more supporting evidence becomes available.   On the use of mRNA vaccines in pregnant and lactating women, Prof Hui said given there are no known risks associated with administering mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to lactating women, they are recommended to receive the mRNA vaccines as for the rest of the population.   “For pregnancy and the vaccination, there are now more than 90,000 women who have received the mRNA vaccines and the safety profile actually has been very good - no abnormalities detected.   “The antibody level acquired through the vaccination is even higher than those who underwent natural infection during pregnancy.   “Researchers have also found a good antibody level in the (umbilical) cord blood and also in the breast milk, so that would confer protection of the baby.    “So far, most of the data are actually based on the mRNA vaccines, be they BioNTech or Moderna.”   On whether pregnant women should receive the Sinovac vaccine, Prof Hui noted that Mainland authorities have endorsed the use of inactivated vaccines in pregnancy.    “However, in Hong Kong we have to wait for the company to actually apply to remove this contraindication, so that it can get through the Advisory Panel (on COVID-19 Vaccines) before we can actually change the contraindication.”   Reports of extremely rare adverse events of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome following the AstraZeneca jab were also discussed during the meeting.   In view of the local epidemiological situation and the availability of alternative COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong, it is considered that there is no need for the introduction of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Hong Kong.   Centre for Health Protection Controller Dr Ronald Lam said at the same briefing that he looked forward to building up herd immunity to COVID-19 in the city.   “It is critically important that our Hong Kong citizens, even after they have completed the full course of vaccination, to maintain so-called non-pharmaceutical measures, including proper mask use, very vigilant hand hygiene and maintaining good ventilation, etc.   “The reason being that still, the vaccine coverage rate right now is not as high as what we have expected and we look forward to reasonable herd immunity build-up before the relaxation of other measures.”
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