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More incentives for jabs needed, says expert

2021-05-10 HKT 09:20
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  • Benjamin Cowling says Hong Kong can vaccinate up to 50,000 people a day, but the most the city has managed so far is around 30,000 a day. Image: Shutterstock
    Benjamin Cowling says Hong Kong can vaccinate up to 50,000 people a day, but the most the city has managed so far is around 30,000 a day. Image: Shutterstock
Hong Kong is experiencing the “worst of both worlds” with relaxed quarantine policies for some people but no increase in vaccine uptake, a public health expert said on Monday, as he called for more incentives for people to get inoculated against Covid-19.

"Now that every adult's got the opportunity to be vaccinated, then I think it's really maybe justifiable now to think about vaccine passports to incentivise vaccine uptake,” University of Hong Kong epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling told RTHK. “That strategy worked very well in Israel."

He said quarantine policies could be further relaxed for people who have been vaccinated, even though there was a “very low risk that a vaccinated person might still get infected, and might still then be part of a chain of transmission in the community.”

“But we … trade it off against a higher vaccine coverage that ultimately protects the community to a much greater extent and is sustainable,” Cowling explained.

He also suggested the government consider reducing close-contact and arrival quarantine requirements for children of fully vaccinated people, to boost the inoculation rate.

"If it was relaxed for vaccinated people, there would still be an issue with their children. If they came with children, the children have to go into quarantine and then the parents have to go anyway so maybe think about relaxing that as well."

Cowling said getting more people vaccinated was the city’s pathway back to normality, and the government should be thinking of more incentives as well, as “the GDP loss every month that we are in, our status quo right now, must be phenomenal.”

“We’re going see other countries increasingly get high vaccine coverage and then returning to normal life, and we’re going to be left behind,” he warned.

Just over 16 percent of the population has had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine since the city’s inoculation drive started in late February.

Cowling said the SAR has the capacity to vaccinate up to 50,000 people a day, but the most Hong Kong had managed was around 30,000 a day.

He acknowledged there was a lot of concern about the side effects of Covid-19 vaccines, but said they are generally very mild.

Serious side effects are “very, very rare”, Cowling said, adding they may be coincidental events not associated with vaccination.

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Last updated: 2021-05-10 HKT 12:23