【明報專訊】Today (May 26) marks exactly three months since Hong Kong's COVID-19 vaccination programme began, but the vaccination rate has still not reached 20%. In terms of the building of the wall of herd immunity, there is still a long way to go. Outbreaks are worsening in neighbouring regions such as Taiwan and Japan. If Hong Kong is to return to normal, its inoculation drive must be stepped up in the coming months.
On February 26, the Hong Kong government officially launched its vaccination programme for the public, which marked the beginning of a new stage in Hong Kong's fight against COVID. Time flies and three months have just passed. So far, more than 1.27 million people in Hong Kong have got vaccinated, equivalent to 19.5% of the population. The total number of people who have got both doses is about 920,000. However, compared with some cities in the region, Hong Kong is significantly lagging behind in inoculation. Though Singapore has not made its vaccination programme universal, the vaccination rate there is already over 20%. Moreover, Hong Kong and the four Tier-1 mainland cities (i.e. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen) are worlds apart in terms of their vaccination rates. Beijing's rate is about 75%, and Shanghai's, 50%. Guangzhou and Shenzhen are slightly behind, but each still has 40%.
In mid-April, the government announced the "vaccine bubble" scheme as its anti-pandemic strategy, basing the gradual relaxation of various social distancing measures on vaccination. This sparked a lot of controversy in society. From an ideological perspective, some criticised the scheme for depriving those who do not want to get a jab of their rights. Some questioned that it could not help encourage people to get the shots. Numbers don't lie. As of April 26, the cumulative number of people receiving the first dose was about 860,000, and the vaccination rate was about 13%. In retrospect, the government has had a devil of a job in the past one month only keeping the vaccination pace from slowing. If it had not made any moves, the vaccination pace would have probably slowed markedly. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection's Communicable Disease Branch, recently mentioned that one of the purposes of the various social distancing measures introduced in the past year was to slow down outbreaks before vaccines were available. Now that they are, "I don't know what everyone is waiting for," she said. Her lamentation at the situation was beyond words. The pandemic has tormented Hong Kong for a long time. Members of society need to adjust their mentality, revisit their common interests, take a positive view of boosting inoculations, work together to accelerate the vaccination programme and strive for a win-win situation.
There are numerous ways to boost inoculations by governments around the globe. Plus ça change. A government can grant those who do so certain rights through public policy or penalise those who do not. Sometimes they are the two sides of the same coin. Sometimes they serve their own purposes. The third way is through material incentives, such as giving money and gifts to encourage inoculations. They can be provided by the government or private organisations.
drive : an organised effort by a group of people to achieve sth
a devil of a job/time : a very difficult or unpleasant job or time
plus ça change : used as a way of saying that people and situations never really change over time, although they may appear to