Calls to drop vaccine pass inappropriate: Sophia Chan

Health secretary Sophia Chan on Friday rejected suggestions from two University of Hong Kong professors to drop the vaccine pass requirements for young adults, saying it’s “inappropriate” for them to make such calls as it would re-ignite vaccine hesitancy.

Chan was responding to epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling and assistant pharmacy professor Theo Chan who earlier said the government is effectively forcing young adults to be jabbed as they would be unable to go to work otherwise.

Writing in Ming Pao, the secretary for food and health said the vaccine pass is still necessary for building Hong Kong’s immunity against Covid-19 so the city can resume normal activities, as it strives to achieve dynamic zero.

Chan noted that some people may not believe the benefits of getting vaccinated are high for them, therefore they don’t have much incentive to get jabbed. She described it as a conflict between individual consideration and overall public interests.

However, she said while formulating anti-epidemic measures, the government could not merely focus on the interests and risks of individuals. The health chief said authorities must build a strong immunity barrier to protect people who are at high risk from Covid-19, including the elderly and patients with chronic illnesses.

People aged 12 or above have to be double-jabbed to enter venues such as restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls, and the requirement will be raised to three doses from May 31.

Chan said dropping the requirement for those under 60 would go against the scheme’s objective, and is unfair to those who have been vaccinated.

“Some people in the medical sector advocate that people in certain age groups should be able to choose freely whether they will take the third jabs, and label the vaccine pass as a coercive measure,” she wrote.

“I’m afraid it would lower people’s willingness to get vaccinated and re-ignite vaccine hesitancy among the public. It’s inappropriate.”

Speaking on a radio programme, microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung echoed Chan’s views, saying dropping the requirement for those under 60 would be unfair and unfeasible.

He disagreed with suggestions that the vaccine pass is a coercive measure, and stressed a high vaccine take-up is necessary to prevent another wave of infections.

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