Recap Highlights: Zoom Webinar “Yes/ No to Covid Jabs?!”

The epidemic of COVID-19 in Hong Kong has been ongoing for over a year and half. Having experiences from SARS in 2003, the government, medical services and citizens are cooperative in adopting preventive measures, including but not limited to wearing masks and being aware of public health. Thanks to our professional healthcare service providers and disciplined citizen, the number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong is relatively small, and there are very few health care–associated infection, compared to the number around the world. As the preventive measures in Hong Kong are rather soft, without large-scale lockdowns, yet the situation has been volatile and Dr Wing Man Ko urges citizens to get vaccinated. To counter COVID-19, there are both internal and external measures to take, for example, reducing imported cases by limiting the number of travelers and compulsory quarantine, social distancing and creating herd immunity via vaccination.

Aware of the public concern about safety problems, Dr. Ko explains that it usually takes two to three years to develop a vaccine, given that COVID-19 has become a pandemic, the WHO and other countries give out emergency use permission of COVID vaccines. This practice is adopted when vaccines are needed urgently in preventing the spread of a serious epidemic. Their side effects are still under monitoring and receiving vaccination involves certain risks. But similar to other vaccines and medications, COVID vaccines on the listing adhere to a criteria of safety and efficacy.

COVID-19 vaccines can be divided into three categories, first being the mRNA. BionTec belongs to this category. mRNA has a high possibility of causing mild side effects, including swelling of injection site, fever and muscle pain, etc. The second category is inactivated vaccine, with Sinovac as an example. Protection level of this kind of vaccines is lower than that of mRNA, but there are also fewer side effects. The third category is adenovirus vector vaccines. As the production process of this kind of vaccines is relatively slower, and it has a higher possibility of causing blood clots, Hong Kong does not import these vaccines.

There were local cases in which elderly and patients with chronic illness died after vaccinated. Citizens are concerned about allergic reactions of vaccination. Dr. Ko states that according to professionals, no cases so far have a direct link to vaccination. Among local vaccinee, the majority has only mild reactions. Dr. Ko also advises that patients with chronic illnesses can receive vaccination if their conditions are stable. Patients who recently suffer from heart attacks or strokes should wait until their conditions become stable to receive vaccination. People who are allergic to certain ingredients of vaccines or have severe allergies should not receive vaccination.

Dr. Ko also clarifies some misunderstanding of vaccination. He points out that the vaccines available have higher efficacy to the original COVID-19 virus, but they also work on mutated viruses to a certain extent. He also points out that 50-70% of citizens have to be vaccinated within one year in order to achieve herd immunity. Now that there are only around 10% of citizens who have received the dose, the number is far less than enough.

Our representative from the catering industry, Mr. Simon Ka Wo Wong shares with us the situation of the industry. The industry consists of 250,000 workers, some of them are senior citizens, it is urgent that the industry resumes business. He says that after the government established “vaccine bubble”, more workers received vaccination and they tried their best to follow the preventive measures instructed by the government. Yet, the policy may not be applicable to the actual operation of restaurants, as a result, not many restaurants can fulfill the requirements for Type C or D catering premises. Affected by the COVID-19 epidemic, the unemployment rate of the industry came to its highest after SARS in 2003. The unemployment rate in January was 14.7%. After the government established supportive schemes, e.g. the Employment Support Scheme, the unemployment rate dropped to 12.8%. However, as the number of tourists reduced by 90%, many restaurants stopped their businesses, which affected other industries such as food suppliers and renovation companies. Mr. Wong encourages citizens to receive vaccination, so that our lives and the economy would go back to normal.

Our representative from the tourism industry, Mr. Paul Yiu Lam Leung points out that the industry has come to a standstill for almost two years. Recently, the government promoted local tours, which requires all tour guides, coach bus drivers, etc. to get vaccinated. However, as the number of tourists is limited, its effect in helping the industry was insignificant. The travel bubble will start with Singapore soon. Mr. Leung expresses his wish that the industry would be revived. He also urges the government to allow tourists from Macau and Shenzhen to visit Hong Kong, as they contribute a lot to the industry. He asks the government to further promote vaccination, and asks employers of the industry to encourage their employees to get vaccinated by means such as offering them a day-off after vaccination.

Many sectors and industries have been affected by COVID-19. To resume normality in social lives and economy, citizens would have to receive vaccinations in order to put an end to the epidemic.

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