Interview with Ivan Hung on Covid-19 vaccines & local tours resume
Despite the fact that in Hong Kong Covid-19 vaccinations are easily accessible and free, the vaccination programme, launched more than three months ago, has resulted in only about 24% of the total population receiving a first dose, with just 17% being fully vaccinated. To boost take-up, the government and the private sector are offering incentives such as lottery tickets, luxury flats, gold, cash, shopping vouchers, and cheaper holidays and flights. Incentives notwithstanding a recent survey by the Faculty of Medicine at the Chinese University shows there’s still considerable vaccine hesitance. Only one in four of those not yet vaccinated are planning to be jabbed in the coming six months. Some are concerned about possible side effects. Others say they have little confidence in government recommendations or the manufacturers of the vaccines. And then there are those who are waiting for a better vaccine to come along. We spoke to Ivan Hung, a co-convenor of the government’s Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment, to address some of these concerns.
Other than the millions of dollars’ worth of cash and prizes in Covid-19 vaccine incentives offered by the private sector, the government has also been hoping to reduce vaccine hesitancy by relaxing restrictions for the fully vaccinated through introducing “vaccine bubbles” in restaurants, catering business and the tourism sector. Despite some recent exemptions and a little loosening up, Hong Kong has one of the strictest virus quarantine measures. A mandatory 14 to 21-day quarantine is required for people who have travelled outside and returned to Hong Kong, although this is now being reviewed. The tourism industry is struggling and has come up with all manner of new initiatives but they will yield no more than a fraction of earnings in more normal times.