Experts divided over easing of vaccine mandate - RTHK
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Experts divided over easing of vaccine mandate

2022-05-16 HKT 11:57
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  • Experts divided over easing of vaccine mandate
Public health experts are split on whether the vaccine pass should stay as Hong Kong's coronavirus situation eases, with some suggesting the requirement should be dropped for those aged under 60 while others saying it is still useful in boosting the inoculation rate.

People aged over 12 have to be double-jabbed to enter venues such as restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls, and the requirement will be raised to three doses from May 31.

Epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling and assistant pharmacy professor Theo Chan from the University of Hong Kong said the government is effectively forcing young adults to be jabbed as they would be unable to go to work otherwise.

But in an article published in local newspaper Ming Pao on Monday, they said most young adults already have immunity against the coronavirus, as they have either been vaccinated or infected in the latest Omicron outbreak.

The experts said it's unlikely that these people would overburden the healthcare system even if they get infected in future.

"We still appeal to Hong Kong citizens – especially the elderly – to receive the third or fourth doses of vaccine to protect themselves and their families," they wrote.

"But we don't agree that the government should continue to use a coercive measure to boost the vaccine take-up among young adults."

Other experts, however, preferred a more cautious approach.

The director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, told an RTHK radio programme on Monday that it's too early to revise the scheme.

"The vaccine pass is an important way to boost the vaccine take-up. Hong Kong is gradually and slowly returning to normal. Cases are expected to go up and down. It's inappropriate to scrap the vaccine pass now," he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Kwok Kin-on, an assistant professor at Chinese University’s Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, agreed that the measure is needed to push more people to get vaccinated.

"Many people aged under 60 are in the workforce and have jobs considered high-risk such as medical workers, restaurant staff and truck drivers. I think the mandate should stay to boost the vaccination rate," he said.

Kwok added that the mandate will be a key factor for the resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland.