Time for jabs, not jabbering

Editorial | Mary Ma 18 Feb 2021

It's time to get down to business now that the debate over the Sinovac vaccine is over following the expert panel's recommendation to approve the emergency use of the mainland vaccine in the SAR.

Will the government be able to roll out vaccination quickly as desired? This is the most critical question of all.

In the Covid battle, social distancing is a useful tool in containing the spread of the virus, but it is the vaccination of the population that will provide the cure.

It's true that Hong Kong has been slow to procure the vaccines, without which it cannot launch a fightback. But we are now at the critical juncture of rolling them out. It may be late, but it's better late than never.

For the vaccine battle to succeed, the program must be swift and massive in scale. A number of countries have been leading in this regard.

Israel has been vaccinating its citizens with Pfizer/BioNTech jabs with at least 2.5 million people - up to a third of its population - having received two jabs. Four in every 10 have also received the first dose.

The good news in Israel is that greater falls in infection have been reported in the over-60s, who were vaccinated first, as well as in cities that vaccinated their residents earliest.

Researchers said these patterns were not seen in earlier lockdowns and believed the falls were also due to the vaccine, not just the lockdowns.

The United Arab Emirates has also done well. In addition to the Pfizer/BioNTech, it is vaccinating its nationals with Chinese vaccine Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik V. As of February 1, about 33 doses had been given per 100 people.

Meanwhile, the UK is doing everything possible to catch up despite a bitter row with the European Union over vaccine supplies.

After meeting its target of giving the first dose to 15 million elderly and the vulnerable early this week, it is now pushing ahead to vaccinate all over-50s before May.

The Boris Johnson government was reported to be privately optimistic that, given the speed, the timeline for the over-50s could be advanced to the end of March. By September, everyone aged 16 or above will be vaccinated.

While it is crucial to have stable supplies of vaccines, it is clear from the examples of these countries that vaccination must be rolled out at really high speed and in huge numbers so that protection expands faster than the spread of the disease in order for it to be tamed.

The debate over whether or not Hong Kong has procured the best world's vaccines is over.

We have no choice but to trust the scientists on the expert panel and must plunge into the battle with determination.

A shipment of a million Sinovac vaccines will arrive tomorrow. If the Fosun/BioNTech jabs are also delivered without incident, Hong Kong will have two types of vaccine available for action in the next or two weeks.

The government must not let the public down again.

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