英文

Editorial:Boosting inoculations in residential care homes

【明報專訊】Recently the pace of vaccination against COVID-19 has accelerated in Hong Kong. But residential care homes (RCHs) are still lagging seriously behind, as official figures show that the vaccination rate for residents of residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) and residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) stands at merely 5% currently.

It can be said that Hong Kong's vaccination drive has gone from strength to strength recently. In community centres, an average of more than 50,000 people receive vaccination every day, a figure that is several times the number just two months ago at just more than 10,000 people per day. So far, more than 35% of the population suitable for vaccination in Hong Kong have been vaccinated. There is a chance for the vaccination rate to reach 50% by the end of summer. However, there are obvious concerns about the vaccination of people from high-risk groups in Hong Kong. Particularly worthy of concern is the situation in RCHs. As of the beginning of this month, only 4,300 residents of all RCHEs and RCHDs in Hong Kong have been vaccinated, accounting for just 5% of the cohort.

If an outbreak occurs in hospitals and RCHs, the outcome can be quite tragic. At present, around 70% to 80% of doctors in the public health service in Hong Kong have been vaccinated. In contrast, the vaccination rate for nurses and RCH staff is about 50%, which is still too low. More effort must be put in in this regard. However, the biggest problem at hand is still the extremely low vaccination rate of elderly RCH residents. COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to the elderly. Vaccinating elderly care home residents against COVID-19 is the focus of pandemic control work in various countries. In the UK and Canada, the rates of vaccination for care home residents are as high as 90%. The vaccination rate for elderly RCH residents in Hong Kong is miserably low.

Some countries in Europe and North America are confident that their vaccination rates are high enough for them to lift pandemic restrictions in one go and transition back to normal. There is much room for deliberation about whether such a practice is circumspect, and Hong Kong does not need to jump on the bandwagon hastily. However, sooner or later the city has to make early preparations properly for the lifting of pandemic restrictions and the transition to normality. It is somewhat a gamble to begin doing so when the vaccination rate just reaches 50%. Theoretically, it is safer to use a 70% vaccination rate as a reference point. However, if there are obvious weaknesses in this shield of vaccine protection and too few elderly RCH residents, a crucial high-risk cluster, are vaccinated, the COVID-19 virus can take advantage of the weaknesses at any time and spread widely between people who are not vaccinated. The numbers of severe cases and people dying of COVID-19 could still rise sharply.

Given the enormous resistance to the boosting of the inoculation drive in RCHs, the authorities must rise to the challenge and try to overcome the difficulties, step up publicity and education campaigns and dispel the misunderstanding in society that ''it is not safe for the elderly to get the jab''. This is just the basic thing to do. The government must work harder to make it easier for RCH residents to get vaccinated and create incentives. Under current outreach vaccination arrangements for RCHs, residents are assessed by an outreach medical team and confirmed to be healthy before the team arranges for them to get vaccinated. This is a reasonable arrangement in principle. However, a practitioner has criticised the slow progress of the assessment service. Though RCHs submitted in late March lists of residents who intended to get vaccinated, the assessments remain uncompleted after the passage of nearly three months. A few assessments have not even started. It is necessary for the authorities to improve administrative arrangements, mobilise more resources and manpower and speed up the assessments of those intending to get the jab.

明報社評 2021.07.08:院舍長者擔心打針 政府鼓勵多管齊下

本港新冠疫苗接種步伐,最近有所加快,可是院舍方面仍嚴重滯後,官方數據顯示,安老及殘疾院舍院友的接種率,目前僅得5%。

最近本港疫苗接種情况,算是漸入佳境,社區中心平均一天超過5萬人打針,比兩個月前一天才得萬多人打針,高出數倍。迄今全港合適接種人口中,超過三成半人打過針,暑假完結前,接種率有機會達到五成,然而本港高危群組接種情况,卻存在明顯隱憂,院舍接種情况尤其令人關注。截至本月初,全港所有安老及殘疾人士院舍,打過針的院友只得4300人,僅佔整個群組總人數的5%。

醫院和院舍一旦爆疫,災情可以相當慘烈。目前本港公營醫療機構醫生,平均有七八成打過針,相比之下,護士及院舍職工接種率約為五成,仍嫌偏低,必須再加把勁,不過眼前最大問題,始終是長者院友接種率太低。COVID-19對長者的威脅最大,為院舍長者接種新冠疫苗,乃是各國控疫工作重點,英國和加拿大的院舍,院友打針率皆高達九成。香港長者院友接種率之低,不忍卒睹。

歐美一些國家自信打針率夠高,以近乎一步到位的方式解封,實現過渡,做法是否穩妥,大有商榷餘地,香港毋須急於跟隨,惟始終要為未來解封過渡,及早做好準備。接種率達到五成便展開解封過渡,其實有冒險成分,以七成作為指標,理論上較為穩陣,可是如果這個疫苗保護罩存在明顯弱點,作為關鍵高危群組的長者院友打針率太低,病毒隨時可以乘虛而入,在未打針人士之間廣泛傳播,重症及病殁人數依然有可能急升。

院舍谷針阻力巨大,當局必須迎難而上,設法克服問題,加強宣傳教育,澄清外界對「長者打針不安全」的誤解,只屬基本要求,政府必須在方便院友接種及製造誘因方面多下工夫。根據院舍外展接種安排,院友經外展醫療隊評估,健康合適再安排打針,這本是合理安排,惟業界人士批評,評估服務進展緩慢,院舍3月底提交有意接種院友名單,等了近3個月,評估仍未完成,小部分甚至連評估都未做。當局有必要改善行政安排,調動更多資源人手,加快處理評估打針事宜。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

go from strength to strength:to gradually become more successful

cohort /ˈkəʊhɔːt/

a group of people who share a common feature or aspect of behaviour

circumspect /ˈsɜːkəmspekt/

thinking very carefully about sth before doing it, because there may be risks involved

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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