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Editorial:Carrot and stick in boosting inoculation

【明報專訊】Aiming to achieve full protection against COVID-19 in Hong Kong by raising the vaccination rate significantly by September, the government has launched a city-wide campaign to boost inoculation. As the government joins forces with the various sectors of the city to step up inoculations, the most preferred approach is of course to appeal to people's reason and compassion. But if people are still unwilling to receive the jab because of various reasons, sometimes extraordinary measures may be necessary. The idea of barring the unvaccinated from certain venues touches upon the issue of personal costs and is bound to be met with controversies. Still, after all the time that has passed since the outbreak of the pandemic, it should be clear to all sides that a balance must be struck between individual rights and anti-pandemic needs. From the public health perspective, if the restrictions are reasonable and proportionate, what has to be done should be done even though that means causing inconvenience to some.

While people in many places around the world are eager for vaccines but do not have them, Hong Kong people sit on the city's mountains of vaccines. Lam Tai-hing, Chair Professor from the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, said those who have not contributed to the city's herd immunity should be ashamed of themselves. Such scathing remarks are from one who ''loves well, whips well''. Yesterday (May 31) the city reported a preliminary positive case with unknown origin. That shows a moment of carelessness in the fight against the pandemic may lead to a resurgence anytime. A fifth wave is very likely.

Indeed, some false beliefs and impressions about COVID-19 vaccines have become entrenched in our society. They include the beliefs that ''the jab may cause death'' and that ''people who have the three highs (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar) are not suitable for receiving the shots''. Even though some experts have emphasised from the very beginning that there is not necessarily a causal relation in the cases of ''death after a jab'', misunderstandings have gradually become preconceptions. An atmosphere of ''better say no to the jab'' is thus formed.

In the middle of last month, the government started to release data regularly about deaths related to miscarriages, acute strokes, myocardial infarction and so forth. The data shows that the incidence rates of all such deaths among vaccinated people are lower than those among the unvaccinated, which is proof that the vaccines are safe. In a nutshell, the deaths of ''three-high'' individuals who ''died after the jab'' were not caused by the shots. Rather, it was simply because a poor control of the ''three highs'' can be fatal. As said by HKU expert Ho Pak-leung, in fact 99% of the city's eligible people are suitable for getting the jab. Contrary to what some may think, the authorities are irresponsible if they do not step up inoculations.

The government announced yesterday the launch of the ''Early Vaccination for All'' campaign to significantly raise the vaccination rate in the coming three months. It takes the lead in arranging vaccination leave for civil servants and also appeals to private companies to follow suit. The arrangement is one that entices people with incentives. On the other hand, the ideas of replacing the requirement of regular testing every fortnight by that of vaccination and barring unvaccinated people from entering venues like restaurants, dormitories, construction sites and cinemas when necessary carry a heavier tone of mandatory measures, which are more controversial. Some think that banning entry to venues is equivalent to ''penalising'' the unvaccinated. Some merchants are also disgruntled that the measure will affect their business. However, all parties have to understand that the whole world is facing a once-in-a-century pandemic. The scope of freedom during the ''state of war'' is certainly incomparable to that during normal times. From the most basic requirement of mask wearing to the most serious measure of locking down, compulsion exists in all these arrangements. The ''War of Pandemic'' is far from ending. For society to return to normal in a sustainable manner, we have to accept some restrictions. In case a fifth wave of outbreaks comparable to the recent serious condition of Taiwan emerges in Hong Kong, there is no ground for blame if the authorities implement the policies concerned as a short-term response.

明報社評 2021.06.01:全城谷針軟硬兼施 扭轉不願打針風氣

政府展開全城「谷針」運動,力爭在9月前大幅提升新冠疫苗接種比率,在港建立全面保護屏障。政府伙拍各界谷針,說之以理、動之以情當然最優先,惟當人們出於種種原因不願打針,有時也得採用非常手段。不打針無法進入某些場所,涉及個人代價問題,爭議必大,可是疫情爆發至今,各界應已明白,必須平衡個人權利及防疫需要,從公共衛生角度,倘若限制合理合度,縱然不便某些人,應做的始終要做。

疫下很多地方「想打針無針打」,香港卻是「大把針無人打」,港大醫學院公共衛生學院講座教授林大慶表示,沒有為本港群體免疫貢獻的港人應感到羞恥,措辭嚴厲,是愛之深、責之切。昨天本港又傳出有一宗源頭不明初步確診,說明防疫稍一不慎隨時死灰復燃,未來出現第五波疫情機率很高。

一些有關新冠疫苗的錯誤觀念和印象,諸如「打針引致死亡」、「三高人士不適宜接種疫苗」等,確已深入人心。雖然專家一開始即強調,「針後亡」不等於有因果關係,然而誤解曲解漸漸變成定見,形成「最好不打針」風氣。

上月中,政府開始定期羅列流產、急性中風、心肌梗塞死亡等數據,顯示打針者相關出事率,全部較同期沒打針者低,證明疫苗安全。一言蔽之,「三高」人士「針後亡」,不是因為打針,而是因為「三高」控制不好可以致命。正如港大專家何栢良指出,全港99%合資格打針者,其實都可以接種。當局不去谷針,才是不負責任。

昨天政府宣布展開「全城起動快打疫苗」運動,爭取未來3個月將大幅提升打針率。政府帶頭讓公務員放疫苗假,呼籲私人機構仿效,乃是誘之以利的安排;以接種疫苗取代每兩周定期檢測,以及必要時限制未打針者不得進入食肆、宿舍、地盤、戲院等場所,強制味道較濃,爭議亦較大,有認為限制出入等同「懲罰」不打針者,有商戶不滿妨礙做生意,可是各方亦要明白,現在全球面對一場世紀抗疫戰,「戰時狀態」自由度一定不如正常,由最基本的戴口罩,到最嚴重的停擺封城,全都有強制成分。「戰疫」遠未結束,社會要可持續復常,就得接受一些限制。如果本港真的出現第五波疫情,類似近期台灣般嚴重,出於短期應對,執行相關政策,亦無可厚非。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

entrench /ɪnˈtrentʃ/:to establish sth very strongly so that it is very difficult to change

preconception /ˌpriːkənˈsepʃn/:an idea or opinion that is formed before you have enough information or experience

miscarriage /ˈmɪskærɪdʒ/:the process of giving birth to a baby before it is fully developed and able to survive; an occasion when this happens

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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