CUHK makes smart vaccine move

Editorial | Mary Ma 14 May 2021

The Chinese University of Hong Kong is setting an example of what some organizations can do to help drive up vaccination against Covid.

The university's decision to revise its student accommodation policy to segregate those who have not been vaccinated from those who have been jabbed is surely controversial - but it has merits.

At face value, it is wrong to discriminate against anyone - but CUHK's move is undoubtedly for the greater protection of all.

I am sure the consensus is to urgently steer campus life back to normal after so many months of online lectures. Students have had more than enough of attending lectures from their bedrooms via Zoom.

Unless they are protected with vaccines, it is highly likely that this absurd form of lecturing will continue in the next school year. Nobody can afford this to recur in September.

CUHK is not the world's first university to require vaccination on campus. Some in the US have asked students to vaccinate in order to return in the new school year. University students in the UK were also invited to vaccinate at their campus clinics early during the rollout exercise.

Locally, CUHK is a late addition to a growing list of organizations making the requirement - some successfully, some not.

For example, a restaurant currently faces boycott by customers after its owner reportedly told his staff who have not vaccinated not to return until they have done so.

While such a policy may work for some, it may not be applicable to others. It can only be done on a case-by-case basis.

By now, it has become increasingly clear that those receptive to the idea of vaccination have mostly come out for the jabs - whether the mainland Sinovac or the German BioNTech.

Though somewhat anticipated, the prevalence of hesitancy is still surprisingly high among Hongkongers.

That's bad news for the city's vaccine commander Patrick Nip Tak-kuen. It can be imagined that those reluctant to get the jab consist mainly of vaccine skeptics - and it will be harder for Nip or other government officials to come up with further measures to persuade these skeptics to vaccinate. For one, Hong Kong may be considered too safe for them to have a change of heart as far as Covid is concerned.

It will be too late for regrets if the SAR is unfortunate to be hit by a major resurgence of some Covid variants if everyone does not use the window now to vaccinate as quickly as possible against what could happen in future.

Statistically, Taiwan is safer than Hong Kong - but the emergence of some clusters recently is driving a sense of panic there. Due to its success in keeping the pandemic out of the island, the public were complacent and totally unprepared for the new outbreaks.

They missed the window to vaccinate early when the situation was well under control.

If many Taiwanese had been vaccinated, they would have faced the clusters with greater confidence.

Hongkongers are in a similar situation. They should use the opportunity to vaccinate ahead of a probable resurgence in future.

It's dangerous to feel complacent during a pandemic.

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