Border clarity needed to boost third jabEditorial | Mary Ma 15 Oct 2021
The government may be accelerating the rolling out of a booster-jab program for those already fully vaccinated against Covid, but the effort could be hampered by a missing link: the fact it is not tied to reopening the border.
As Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterated a couple of days ago, the government would start with reopening the mainland border, regardless of the pressure from foreign business chambers.
So it would be essential to include the missing link in parallel to rolling out a booster program for those in most need of a third jab.
Of the SAR's population aged above 12, 66 percent have been vaccinated with at least one dose of either the mainland-made Sinovac or German-made BioNTech.
That is more than 4.54 million people.
The discouraging news is tha,t among those aged 60 or above, less than 39 percent are vaccinated and a lot more efforts will have to be made to encourage them to go for their first jab. It is difficult to overcome the hesitancy of this group.
It is clear enough that those having a third dose would be the least hesitant, including those who were among the first to receive the Sinovac vaccine before others came out for the BioNTech version.
The greatest incentive for them would be a real possibility to travel to the mainland without the fear of having to go through lengthy quarantine isolation on a regular basis, rather than lucky draws offered by developers or shopping malls.
The rounds of lucky draws in the past helped, but they were not the fundamental answer.
So far, government officials have been less than clear on when and how they are going to reopen the border with the mainland.
Greater clarity on this would be the biggest incentive to launch a booster program at a solid pace.
Otherwise, responses from these least hesitant could also be lukewarm as some may think that, first, the SAR is effectively free of Covid and, second, it would be a waste of time to be jabbed a third time without knowing the practical benefit of it.
As the effect of vaccines wanes over time, they may also ask whether they would have to receive a fourth dose some time later while waiting for the border to reopen.
For any booster program to start on firm ground, the government must be able to address the concerns of these people, telling them how they might expect to benefit practically from a third dose.
More and more governments are changing their strategies, and it is only a matter of time before we will have to follow the example of Singapore to accept the reality that, like the flu, the Covid virus will become a part of life with Hongkongers having to learn to live with it one way or another.
Isolating the city from the rest of the world may be one way to live with the virus - but this cannot last forever.