【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
■/ 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