英文

Editorial:Encouraging students to get the jab

【明報專訊】The Hong Kong government has decided to lower the minimum age for receiving the BioNTech vaccine to 12 and the arrangements concerned will be announced this week at the earliest. The lethality of the COVID-19 virus is the highest for elderly people. But that does not mean it is ''all right'' for minors to contract the disease. Some local cases of confirmed infection have shown that children and adolescents infected with the virus may develop serious complications and suffer from a sequela even after a recovery. Countries like the US, Canada and Singapore have already approved COVID-19 jabs for children aged 12 or above in accordance with the results of clinical trials. Local experts in the city also believe that most of the adolescents are suitable for the shot. The Hong Kong government should conduct publicity campaigns more adequately and offer explanations in greater detail to parents so as to reduce their vaccine hesitancy.

Many countries have recently begun exploring the possibility of COVID-19 vaccination for children. After a phase 3 clinical trial in Germany for BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine showed that the vaccine is safe and highly effective for adolescents, recently the US, Canada and Singapore approved one after another the use of Comirnaty in minors aged 12 or above. On the mainland, the National Medical Products Administration has also received phase 1 and 2 clinical trial data of children vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine, which shows that the vaccine is safe and effective for children. The country has approved expanding the age coverage to above three for the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine. In Hong Kong, as approving the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines requires phase 3 clinical trial results, it is believed that the age threshold for the Sinovac vaccine in the city will not be brought in line with that on the mainland for the time being. As for the Comirnaty vaccine, last week the government approved the application for lowering the minimum age of receiving the vaccine to 12, thus starting the preparation for vaccinating pupils.

Now that we have scientific data that supports adolescent vaccination, it is reasonable and justifiable to ask secondary schools to take the lead to act accordingly and pave the way for a return to the pre-pandemic model of full day education. As the city has not seen any major outbreaks on campuses so far since the pandemic started, some are critical about the necessity of rolling out strict anti-pandemic measures for schools, for example, vaccinating the students. Still, as said by government advisory expert Yuen Kwok-yung, it could have been by sheer luck merely that we have not seen any campus outbreaks so far.

Studies show that if a school has failed to adopt necessary anti-pandemic measures, the campus environment may enable the virus to spread easily and school staff will face a higher risk than students. In Israel, a secondary school became the site of an outbreak after two infected students went to lessons on the campus. The school had more than 1,000 students, of whom more than 10% got infected. The infection rate among the school staff even reached 16%. Furthermore, the existence of mutant virus strains has also added variables to the situation. After a resurgence of cases in Singapore last month, the authorities announced recently opening up COVID-19 inoculation for all students aged above 12. That was exactly because of the rising number of student cases and it cannot be ruled out that the mutant virus may pose a greater threat to children.

Local experts have pointed out that most adolescents have a strong constitution and are free from the worries of so-called ''three-highs'' (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol). Basically, those who have a history of asthma, allergic rhinitis or eczema are still safe to get the shot. Even if a parent suspects that they are unsuitable for inoculation themselves, they can still allow the children to get the jab. The government must rely on publicity and persuasion to seek co-operation from schools and parents on encouraging students to receive the shots.

明報社評 2021.06.08:鼓勵學童打疫苗 汲取教訓減猶豫

港府將復必泰疫苗接種年齡下調至12歲,打針安排最快本周公布。新冠病毒對長者殺傷力最大,不代表未成年人士染疫「沒相干」,本地一些確診病例顯示,兒童及青少年染疫,有可能出現嚴重併發症,即使康復亦可能有後患。美加新加坡等地已因應臨牀實驗數據,批准12歲或以上兒童接種新冠疫苗,本港專家亦相信,絕大部分青少年皆適合打針。港府要做好宣傳工作,多向家長解說,減少疫苗猶豫。

最近多國都探討兒童接種疫苗的可能。德國BioNTech的3期臨牀實驗顯示,青少年接種復必泰安全高效,美國、加拿大、新加坡最近相繼批准年滿12歲未成年人士接種;內地方面,科興亦向藥監局提交兒童打針的1、2期臨牀研究數據,顯示科興疫苗對兒童安全有效,國家已批准將緊急使用年齡範圍擴至3歲以上。本港審批新冠疫苗緊急使用,必須有第3期臨牀實驗結果,科興打針年齡門檻,相信暫時不會與內地看齊,至於復必泰方面,港府上周已批准將接種年齡下調至12歲的申請,為稍後學童接種新冠疫苗做準備。

既然有科學數據支持青少年接種,中學率先按此原則辦事,為恢復疫前全日制教學鋪路,合情亦合理。疫情出現以來,本港未嘗有學校出現大規模爆疫,有意見質疑是否有必要在學校厲行防疫,包括要求學生打針,然而正如政府顧問專家袁國勇所言,迄今未見學校爆發可能只是幸運。

研究發現,倘若校方沒有採取必要的防疫措施,校園環境確有可能助長病毒傳播,教職員面對的風險較學生更高。以色列有中學試過因為兩名染疫學生回校上堂,引發疫情,全校逾千學生,超過一成感染,教職員染疫比例更達16%。另外,變種病毒也是一個變數。上月新加坡疫情反彈,當局最近宣布全國12歲以上學生可預約打針,就是因為發現多了學生染疫,不排除當地出現的變種病毒,對兒童的威脅較大。

本地專家指出,絕大部分青少年體格壯健,沒有所謂「三高」不受控之憂,一般哮喘、鼻敏感和濕疹患者都可安全接種,就算家長真的懷疑自己不適合打針,依然可以讓子女接種。政府必須倚重宣傳勸說,爭取校方及家長配合,鼓勵學生接種。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

minor /ˈmaɪnə(r)/

a person who is under the age at which you legally become an adult and are responsible for your actions

contract /kənˈtrækt/

to get an illness

constitution /ˌkɒnstɪˈtjuːʃn/

the condition of a person's body and how healthy it is

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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