Don’t lose confidence in Covid vaccines, expert urges

A medical expert advising the government on Covid-19 says people should now look at vaccines as a means to prevent serious illnesses, instead of focusing on whether they can stop infections.

Professor Lau Yu-lung, who chairs a scientific committee advising the government on its vaccination programme, also said while booster shots are important, the city should continue to increase the take-up rate of vaccines for the elderly and start inoculating younger children.

Lau told an RTHK programme that media reports about how vaccines are not able to kill-off the Omicron variant will deter people from getting jabbed.

“Don’t rely on vaccines to stop infections, it’s impossible. Stop focusing on the infections. Instead, look at how to prevent serious illnesses, hospitalisation, death or intensive care. We should look at the objective of the vaccines this way, otherwise people will lose confidence in the vaccines,” he said.

When asked whether people should wait for newer generations of vaccines that may be more effective against Omicron, Lau said they still should get their boosters.

“To fight against Omicron, we will eventually need a second generation of vaccines. Now we are buying time. Our zero-case strategy is buying time, booster shots are buying time,” he said.

Meanwhile, an expert in respiratory medicine said the government should consider banning even Hong Kong residents from returning to the SAR from high-risk places as Omicron continues to spread worldwide.

At present, the government has banned non-Hong Kong residents from high-risk countries, and residents have to undergo stringent quarantine.

Leung Chi-chiu says the measures might have to be tightened when it comes to places like the UK.

“The pandemic is worsening rapidly. If it’s absolutely unnecessary, don’t travel abroad. If you really have to go to places where there are outbreaks, be prepared that all flights might be suspended if the situation is bad,” he said.

As for the planned resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland, Leung said he believes it could still go ahead as long as there are no community transmissions.