Sort out the jab bottlenecks

Editorial | Mary Ma 1 Mar 2021

Public response to the Covid vaccination program has been promising so far and will be even more encouraging after bookings open for the BioNTech version.

According to government officials, more than 13,600 citizens - including those aged 60 and above as well as people accompanying them - have been vaccinated since the mainland vaccine Sinovac was rolled out last week.

The good news is that the number of vaccinations will only keep increasing.

Contrary to infections, the steeper the rise of the vaccination curve, the better the news is for everyone.

In this light, de-facto vaccine minister Patrick Nip Tak-kuen should aim at speeding up the roll-out of vaccines as his immediate objective.

Hong Kong is well equipped with the hardware and manpower to give out the jabs at a quicker pace.

The only variable outside his control is public acceptance of the vaccines. He is lucky that public sentiments towards the vaccines - including Sinovac - have been better than predicted and they continue to improve.

For many, it is human nature to adopt a wait-and-see attitude in the face of uncertainty. As the number of people coming out to get the vaccine continues to increase, others will be less hesitant.

A shift in sentiment was already evident at the weekend.

A few weeks ago when the debate was still heated over which vaccine to take, it was not uncommon to hear people saying they would rather wait and see.

Now that more than 13,600 people have received the Sinovac vaccine, and following the shipment of BioNTech, many of the undecided are now asking when they can book online.

Nip must act quickly to preempt any bottleneck in the program.

The delivery of more than half a million doses of BioNTech has placed him in a much stronger position to speed up vaccinations.

In a social media post yesterday, Nip said he inspected a vaccination center in Kowloon Bay and was stunned by the long queue outside.

Admitting that this was undesirable, he contacted the center to find out what happened.

Inoculation is supposed to be a simple process lasting a few minutes, from cross-checking personal information to giving the jab. Obviously, staff had yet to tune in.

Of course, it would not be wrong for Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung to appeal to the public to get the jab. Given his power, it would be even better if he could play his senior role in the government to enhance the roll-out.

Undoubtedly, the vaccination program will be more successful than the Covid tracing app.

It means the government may liaise with the mainland on the prospect of opening up the border, which would encourage tens of thousands of people with close ties to the mainland to respond to the chief secretary's appeal.

With more vaccines becoming available, supplies will not be an issue. The bottleneck will not be in the supply, but the speed with which the jabs are given.

Better still, the government should start drawing up an exit roadmap from the lockdowns.

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