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Friday, Sep 24, 2021

Hong Kong needs to get more Covid shots into elderly arms

Hong Kong needs to get more Covid shots into elderly arms

90 per cent of the city’s most vulnerable population is unprotected. How do we get to a new normal without them?

Hong Kong is now seeing great progress with Covid-19 vaccination. It is clear we can reach rates of 55 per cent to 60 per cent by the time the community vaccination centres close in September. However, the numbers among our most vulnerable elderly age groups are not so encouraging.

Today, we have vaccinated less than 5 per cent of those aged 80 or older. By comparison, the UK has vaccinated more than 90 per cent of that age group. In the UK, 80 per cent of care home staff have been vaccinated (compared to just 30 per cent in Hong Kong). The 70-79 age group doesn’t fare much better. Put aside the excuses and ask yourself: what is so different about our elderly population versus those of the UK and elsewhere?

Hong Kong’s plan has been to close borders, to test, trace and isolate, in order to achieve and maintain zero Covid until such time as we can obtain herd immunity. We can then gradually open up, remove restrictions and revive our economy (in particularly those industries so badly hit by the pandemic).

With such partial immunity, we should still expect some local Covid-19 outbreaks, but they would be small enough, and we would have enough protection, to limit the suffering and impact on our health care system. We could learn to live with a new normal of endemic Covid-19.

But how can we follow through on that plan with 90 per cent of our most vulnerable population unprotected? Today, with the risk-averse mentality prevalent among those caring for our elderly, it has become so very difficult to vaccinate even the elderly who want the vaccine.

I personally know of one case where an 80 plus-year-old care home resident wants the vaccine, and has their doctor’s and family’s written approval, but vaccination staff refuse to vaccinate. I hear of so many other similar stories.

Hong Kong needs to change. We need to prioritise protection for our most vulnerable groups by vaccination. We cannot simply continue to lock up our elderly, away from their families, and allow them to die alone.


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