CityU expert advocates Covid-19 vaccination for the community


Hong Kong should not squander a unique opportunity to protect itself and others from Covid-19, according to one of the world’s foremost molecular virologists at City University of Hong Kong (CityU). 

“The available data show that vaccination is safe and efficacious, and really the only way to responsibly reach herd immunity,” said Professor Nikolaus Osterrieder, Dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, in an online talk titled “Covid-19 Vaccination - A One Health No-Brainer” on 3 June.   

Vaccination hesitancy must be overcome if we want life to return to normal, otherwise the current social restrictions and economic impacts will continue for months to come, he said.

The problem facing Hong Kong, he said, is that herd immunity is achieved only when at least 70% of a community has been vaccinated. With currently only around 20% of people in Hong Kong having received at least one shot, that target won’t be reached until January/February next year.  

Other places like Israel, EU countries, the UK and the US have either have reached, or will reach very soon, the 70% target this year thanks to strong vaccine programmes.

“This is a critical time for Hong Kong,” advised Professor Osterrieder. The economy is suffering, people’s mental health is taking a hit, new variants pose fresh risks, and the situation in countries like Brazil, India and Vietnam is worrying.

“Also, the circumstances in Taiwan shows that you cannot lock the virus out indefinitely,” he said. “There will always be pockets of the virus that will eventually get into the population.”

Yet, despite the science and the facts, vaccination rates remain relatively low in Hong Kong, and even the most vulnerable are not getting vaccinated.  

“So, what can we do? People that have received vaccines or plan to do so can discuss with family and friends and encourage them to do the same. The goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. In terms of the safety of the vaccines, we can say that there is really no difference between the various vaccines available for Covid-19 in Hong Kong,” he said.

He concluded his talk by reiterating that herd immunity was ultimately the only way to reduce the massive burden on society and the economy that Covid-19 has wrought.

“The virus will not go away. It will become endemic. That means that we will have to live with it and mitigate its potentially devastating effects, which is very similar to how we live with other infectious diseases, e.g., measles, influenza, chickenpox,” he said.

“This means that vaccination is the only reasonable pathway to end the pandemic.”

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