Health Secretary Sophia Chan on Thursday admitted that there is a tight supply of measles vaccines and said that amid the territory's current outbreak, the limited doses available must only go to those who really need them.
Chan said she has written to two vaccine suppliers urging them to provide the SAR with as many doses as possible, but she warned that there is currently a global shortage.
"Therefore, it is very important for the government to ensure that there is a stable supply of vaccine for people who really need it. And by that I mean people who do not have any immunity," Chan said at a press conference.
Thirty-one people have been diagnosed with measles in Hong Kong so far this year, many of them workers at the airport. The latest is a 17-year-old boy who is visiting the city from the Philippines.
The Hospital Authority said that from Monday, it will start giving measles jabs to staff working in high-risk areas, such as gynaecological and paediatric departments, where the patients themselves may not be immunised against measles.
The authority’s chief executive, Leung Pak-yin, said there are around 10,000 workers in these units, but not many of them would require a jab.
Meanwhile, health officials said they will carry out blood tests on 100 workers at the airport on Friday to help work out which groups of people are immune to the measles virus and who should get priority for vaccinations.
They said that despite the small sample for the study, the checks, which will reveal who has antibodies for the virus, will help authorities deduce what percentage of airport staff are immune.
"The blood tests will give us very good information, client-specific information about the seroprevalence of people ... to inform our strategy in the coming weeks as to how best to provide the vaccine to people," the health secretary said.
Health officials have previously said that people born before the early 1960s and from 1985 onwards are likely to be immune to the measles virus, and people in these age groups make up more than 90 percent of Hong Kong's population.
On Wednesday, Chan told Legco that pharmaceutical companies would deliver 31,000 doses of measles vaccines to private clinics in the territory in the middle of next month, while another 10,000 will be given to private doctors in June.