【明報專訊】The concerted effort made by all sectors in Hong Kong to boost the inoculation rate has shown initial signs of success, as the rate of vaccination against COVID-19 has increased. Still, there is quite a long way to go before the desired vaccination rate can be achieved. To encourage vaccination, a hotel has launched a scheme to reward those who have got the shot, at the same time mentioning that it may lay off staff if the vaccination rate falls short of the target.
Hong Kong has been fighting the pandemic for nearly a year and a half. Before vaccines could be rolled out, one-size-fits-all anti-pandemic measures were the only option. Now that vaccines are available, anti-pandemic measures can be relaxed in a targeted manner according to the actual situation of vaccination. In April this year, the government proposed the phased relaxation of business restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants based on the ''vaccine bubble''. Lately, the government has even proposed banning people who are unvaccinated from entering restaurants, construction sites, schools and other venues if the fifth wave of infections breaks out. Some people think that such a practice is a form of ''discrimination'' against and ''punishment'' for those who do not get vaccinated. However, people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who are not are faced with different levels of risk, and the differences in treatment towards them are related to public health and cannot be invariably labelled ''discrimination''. David Hui Shu-cheong, a government expert advisor, believes that if the fifth wave hits, the principle should be giving those who have been vaccinated more freedom. If ''one-size-fits-all'' measures are still taken during the fifth wave, the government will effectively be ''punishing those who have been vaccinated'', which will be neither necessary nor fair, says Hui.
Vaccine hesitancy is serious in Hong Kong, and the reasons behind it are complex. The authorities have listed a series of data showing the ''background'' incidences of some diseases to dispel the misunderstanding about ''death caused by vaccination''. Experts have also stressed in unison that vaccines are safe. Still, many people refuse to get vaccinated. Recently, the Hong Kong government and the business community have worked together to boost the vaccination rate, offering myriads of rewards and incentives. The pace of vaccination has finally picked up. So far, about 1.6 million people have been vaccinated, accounting for 24% of Hong Kongers eligible for the shot. However, for Hong Kong to significantly relax its anti-pandemic measures, the vaccination rate must reach at least 60% to 70%. To encourage vaccination, many companies have allowed employees to take paid leave and even offered cash subsidies. Some companies have chosen the carrot and stick approach. Calling on its employees to get vaccinated, a hotel has recently offered subsidies and rewards but at the same time expressing ''disappointment and anger'' at some employees' refusal to get the shot. Its management have even said that if the vaccination rate of employees is less than 70% by the end of this month, the company may lay off staff to save costs.
The world amid the pandemic bears no comparison with that before it. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 so as to protect oneself and the others is of crucial importance when it comes to different sectors' and the entire society's return to normal. If one puts ideology above everything else, one will be having one's hands tied oneself. At a time when soft and hard tactics are employed to boost the vaccination rate in so many places, there is no reason why Hong Kong should let up. For some time, the issue of vaccination at the workplace will only grow more and more acute. Rather than get entangled in ''metaphysical'' discussions such as ''vaccine discrimination'', it is better for all parties to face the reality of the pandemic as soon as possible and formulate reasonable and appropriate guidelines for issues such as the requirement for vaccination at the workplace. This way, a balance can be struck between the points of view of employers, employees and customers and public health needs.
明報社評 2021.06.10：僱主要求員工打針 關鍵在於合理合度
■/ Glossary 生字 /
fall short：to fail to reach an amount or standard that was expected or hoped for, causing disappointment
pick up：to get better, stronger, etc; to improve
the carrot and stick approach：if you use the carrot and stick approach, you persuade sb to try harder by offering them a reward if they do, or a punishment if they do not