Air of confidence just what vaccine bubble needs

City talk | Stephanie Chan 23 Apr 2021

I am writing in response to Mary Ma's article in the April 15 publication of The Standard about Hong Kong's vaccination situation and the potential travel bubble that could be implemented.

There is no doubt that the ongoing Covid-19 situation has been devastating for many aspects of our lives.

But with the rapid implementation of vaccination programs around the world, people have been given hope that their daily lives can gradually resume as normal.

Like Ms Ma, I was encouraged by the promising response to the vaccination program.

Since the start of the vaccination program, I have observed a significant shift in sentiments among people in Hong Kong.

Before the German-made Comirnaty vaccine by BioNTech/Fosun became available in Hong Kong, the political factor was one of the impediments to getting the populace inoculated.

Some people were worried about the quality of Sinovac as they were made in the mainland.

They were skeptical about its effectiveness, as well as the lack of transparency and truthfulness forthcoming about the side-effects.

Many adopted a wait-and-see attitude or even refused outright to get a Sinovac jab.

However, with the BioNTech vaccine becoming available, the willingness to get vaccinated has greatly increased.

Hence, political concerns have receded.

Hong Kong is well equipped with the professionals, technology, hardware and manpower needed to speed up the rollout of vaccines, and I believe that Hong Kong is capable of doing so regardless of the brand when there is a discrepancy in the vaccination rate between the two brands provided .

Recently, the government announced various regulations for different sectors, which can be seen as a compromise for allowing them to gradually resume business by loosening some of the social distancing measures.

I believe that providing specific financial incentives to businesses, making vaccination as the basic criteria, is effective to boost the vaccination rate as many would not compromise where financial gains are in play.

The chief executive has also proposed a potential reopening of border crossings to travelers from certain cities in the mainland when the vaccination rate of Hong Kong has reached a certain number.

With the government liaising with the mainland on this prospect, a reopening facilitates the exchange of manpower and travelers for business and leisure purposes, which have a definite positive impact on the economy.

However, one controversial part of this potential "vaccine bubble" is that people will feel like their freedom will still be restricted unless they are part of the "bubble".

This is going to be something similar as the "green passport" in Israel, with the predictable perplexed opinions and controversies if introduced in Hong Kong.

On the one hand, the "green passport" can surely bring back normalcy for the people of Hong Kong.

On the other, some might feel that their basic right to make decisions for themselves have to be compromised so as to "earn" some freedom.

Some regard the "green passport" as an unfair policy as not everyone is suitable for vaccinations, for example concerning medical histories and religious factor.

It is clear that society needs more time to adjust and get us to the new "norms" and regulations, enhancing public acceptance if a higher degree of transparency is provided.

Fundamentally, boosting confidence and acceptance of Covid-19 vaccines are top priorities for Hong Kong to combat the pandemic.

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