Aim for 90pc jabs rate - bravo but how?

Editorial | Mary Ma 26 Jul 2021

University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kwok-yung is probably the world's only microbiologist to recommend a vaccination rate of no less than 90 percent of the population before social distancing restrictions can be further relaxed.

His view is cause for concern, as it raises the question of whether he is out of touch. Is Yuen from Mars?

If 90 percent were to become the minimum threshold that had to be achieved for lockdowns to be lifted, Hong Kong may never walk free again.

It's a pity Yuen didn't say why 90 percent - and not 95 or 100 - was the sweet spot.

If it is already a great challenge to raise the jabs rate to 70 percent, would it be unrealistic to elevate the target to 90 percent - or even higher?

It would be a setback for Hong Kong if Secretary for Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee viewed Yuen's opinion as a cardinal rule.

Although I personally would like to see everyone here receive two jabs of their preferred vaccine, we have to remain pragmatic.

Instead of shifting the goal post to 90 percent from the 70 percent that every expert here and elsewhere had set out with, it would be more useful for the knowledgeable to inform hesitant Hongkongers that being vaccinated does make a difference.

Vaccination may not stop someone from getting infected with Covid but it protects them from falling seriously ill.

Such information is abundant overseas but is seldom mentioned in local press updates.

As he plays "Covid Sherlock Holmes," Yuen is also in a position that is more authoritative than Chan's to inform Hongkongers that vaccines may not stop infection totally but they do protect individuals from hospitalization in most cases.

That's the kind of information the public needs to know. Unfortunately, none of our officials or infectious-disease experts have demonstrated a readiness to pass such important information across to the public.

Once people are informed, they know how to protect themselves. The last thing to do is to withhold the information from them.

Recent spikes in locals turning out for two jabs of their preferred vaccine is most welcome.

But, to be frank, the increased turnouts had nothing to do with remarks of encouragement parroted by government officials and experts. They have been made possible by lotteries and gifts donated by real-estate developers and private companies.

Clearly, the early hesitancy has been overcome. If someone like Yuen can follow on to explain how receiving two doses can make a difference in the event of infection, this would be more helpful than setting a 90 percent target.

It is regrettable that, as the Centre for Health Protection said one of the three newly confirmed cases from overseas had received two doses of Moderna and had been to a few European countries, it did not elaborate on the conditions of the case.

Was the individual very sick - or showing no symptoms at all?

Such information is relevant and information of this kind should be included in future updates.

It is right to encourage vaccination, but it would be misleading to link the easing of social distancing restrictions to any unrealistic target.

That won't help the SAR recover from the pandemic.

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