Follow Israel's vaccination success

Editorial | Mary Ma 4 Jan 2021

I'm not in the slightest bit sorry to see the back of 2020!

Will 2021 shape up any better? This partly depends on how swift the SAR can roll out its vaccination program to fight the pandemic.

Perhaps Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip Tak-kuen should take a cue from the Israelis.

In the vaccination race, Israel is undoubtedly No 1 in terms of per-capita vaccination.

More than 11 percent of Israel's 8.7 million population have been vaccinated against Covid.

Hong Kong's population is just 1.2 million smaller, so it makes a good comparison with the Jewish state.

Why is Israel so successful? Of course, it has much to do with its highly efficient government. Its vaccination exercise has been so swift that the program is due to pause for three weeks due to supply issues. This is to ensure enough stock for those already vaccinated to receive a second jab.

More critically, the Israelis are united. Being a small nation at the center of the Middle East tinder box, national unity is a life-or-death matter.

Although Britain was the first to start vaccinating its people, it has not been as efficient as its Israeli counterpart.

Now that Nip has been tasked with overseeing the SAR's vaccination exercise, which is expected to kick off in February, he must roll it out as efficiently as the Israelis.

Needless to say, they are able to do it because they have maintained a high level of trust in their elected government.

In this regard, Hong Kong is undoubtedly at a huge disadvantage as even the much vaunted concept of one country, two systems has not been an overwhelming success here.

The findings of a recent poll conducted by a youth group were particularly disturbing, with a high of 40 percent of young adults saying they would not be vaccinated.

Although the base of the poll was small at just 412 respondents, it provides a useful reference.

The young adults' reluctance is not expected to affect the vaccination program immediately because the exercise will be focused initially on the elderly and vulnerable groups. And there will not be enough vaccines to include young people in the beginning.

Evidence so far has suggested that immunizing senior citizens will help to greatly reduce hospital admissions, so it makes perfect sense to focus on them first.

Nonetheless, Nip will have to consider the feedback from the young people later when vaccine supplies stabilize.

Hong Kong will have two alternatives - Sinovac and Fosun/BioNTech - to choose from in the first phase. With luck, citizens will be inoculated with the BioNTech version if it is given approval before Sinovac.

This would also make Nip's job easier as Hongkongers will prefer BioNTech to Sinovac - out of prejudice or not.

The upside of this is that, once the vaccination program kicks off smoothly, it will increase people's acceptance of the exercise that will help extend the program to other vaccines, including Sinovac's.

As with all vaccines, including those for the flu, side effects are expected and fears will be overcome.

The quicker vaccination is rolled out, the sooner life will return to normal.

Will Nip learn from the Israelis for a smooth launch next month?

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