Hong Kong residents remain wary of being vaccinated against the coronavirus, with less than a third willing to get the jab, a new survey by hospital pharmacists has found.
According to the study, which was released on Sunday, safety, potentially adverse side effects and the quick roll-out of the scheme were the three main concerns of those polled.
The findings of the poll, which questioned 838 residents via email between January 8 and 17, came days after a university survey found more than half of respondents did not intend to be vaccinated.
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William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, urged the government to release more detailed information on each vaccine it had procured to help people decide if they should get the jab.
“Don’t underestimate residents,” Chui said. “Their concerns over safety, efficacy and quality are fully in line with those of the experts on the government’s vaccine advisory panel. This is why information is so important, it should not just be provided to experts and medical staff, but to all Hongkongers.”
The study, which was conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, showed 33 per cent of respondents had decided they would not be vaccinated, while 36 per cent remained undecided.
Chui said this group of people would be the key to whether Hong Kong would be able to achieve the recommended vaccination rate of 70 per cent.
The vaccination campaign got off to a rocky start when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor initially said residents would not be able to choose which shots they received, only to later clarify they would be allowed a preference.
The roll-out also suffered delays after Sinovac Biotech did not deliver its doses by January as promised and failed to publish comprehensive final-stage trial data. The BioNTech vaccine is now expected to be the first to arrive, coming after Lunar New Year.
Professor Lo Chung-mau, chief executive at the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, urged the government to buy vaccines from another pharmaceutical factory, given the Sinovac delays.
“The Hong Kong government has absolute reasons to purchase vaccines from another pharmaceutical factory, given the delays in Sinovac. They should not be embarrassed to do so,” Lo said.
“This is a public health disaster and the government’s responsibility is to control the epidemic as soon as possible, not to [prioritise] a promise to any pharmaceutical company.”
The health minister, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, said on Sunday the government was not waiting passively for further updates from drugmakers.
“We maintain contact with vaccine makers around the world, including those on the mainland,” Chan said.
“The work that is being done by us is multifaceted, apart from procurement and logistics … we are also actively in touch [with the manufacturers] for obtaining relevant data. We are not just waiting.”
Hong Kong has struck deals to purchase 22.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, with 7.5 million shots each coming from three suppliers: Sinovac Biotech; British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca; and Fosun Pharma, which is delivering the vaccine co-developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US-based Pfizer.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said in his blog on Sunday that the coming vaccinations and the increase in Covid-19 testing capacity would help the city more quickly resume visitation at care homes for the elderly, something that could improve residents’ mental health.
Among the three vaccines Hong Kong had secured, more than half of the survey respondents said they preferred the Pfizer-BioNTech version.
The acceptability of the Chinese-manufactured Sinovac jabs fell at one point to just 18 per cent after the release of data by the Butantan Institute, its partner in Brazil, showing an unexpectedly low efficacy rate of 50.4 per cent. The overall acceptance rate averaged out at 28 per cent, while AstraZeneca’s shots received the lowest acceptability rate at just 13 per cent.
An earlier survey by the University of Hong Kong, which polled more than 1,000 respondents between January 6 and 17, showed a drop in the number of residents who intended to receive a vaccination, from 63.2 per cent in November to 45.9 per cent in January.
Chui noted that residents who said they would not take the vaccine tended to be young, with up to 40 per cent of that category aged 18 to 29.
“This information will help decide what kind of strategy should be taken to convince them to change their minds, as information given to young people is different from that given to older people,” he said.
Infectious disease expert Dr Wilson Lam said Hongkongers had to get immunised to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus in the city.
“Even though the situation now seems very bad, with more than 10,000 infections, it is still only a small proportion of the total population,” he said. “If the proportion of people who get vaccinated is high enough, at least we can reduce the number of serious infections and relieve the stress on the medical system.”
This article Hong Kong residents remain wary of Covid-19 vaccines, with less than a third willing to get jab: survey first appeared on South China Morning Post