Vaccines have always been confidence crisis|Kay Lam

Published (HKT): 2021.02.24 09:09

“Being on cloud nine”, “thanking the central government” – Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took the initiative to get inoculated with China’s Sinovac vaccine. Without phase three clinical data published in international medical journals, Sinovac vaccine thrust its way to land in the city all of a sudden earlier than BioNTech vaccine from Germany, which has become a political show offering a “thanksgiving” to the central authorities. Admittedly, “daring to get injected with the vaccine”, Carrie Lam is much better than those pledging patriotism, yet waiting for other vaccines from overseas. But the real questions are: Who politicizes such a simple scientific question? Why does one have to “thank the central authorities” when getting vaccinated?

What is vaccination done for? David Hui Shu Cheong, government epidemic expert consultant, pointed out the other day that the vaccination is done for reducing the risk of catching the symptoms, not preventing one from getting infected with Wuhan pneumonia; the Department of Health even released a press release on February 20 indicating that the effectiveness of the vaccine and its supply are limited, so in the short run, it may not be able to achieve collective protection; Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor from HKU ‘s Department of Microbiology, said the other day that the effectiveness of Sinovac vaccine reaches only 50.65%, which will drag down the herd immunity. It means the more people injected with Sinovac vaccine, the more citizens needed to get a jab! That is simple math, not “politicization”.

However, the SAR government has been turning a blind eye to queries from the citizens and experts about Sinovac, and Carrie Lam keeps on accusing the citizens of believing in “fraudulent rumors”. Then what is “fraudulent”? Why is the “fraudulent” not clarified? What the citizens have clearly seen is quite a number of physicians and experts have queried the efficacy of Sinovac vaccine, even professing that they would only consider BioNTech. “Handling special cases with special method”, the SAR government, nevertheless, approved Sinovac vaccine, which is the origin of the crisis of confidence. The more the government “thanks the central government”, the more politicized the choice of Sinovac is, and as a result, the more unconfident the citizens are. People will just question: If clinical data of a vaccine fail to get published in international medical journals and it is not from China, will the government “handle this special case with special method” and approve it?

It is reported by overseas media that some Chinese staff members dispatched overseas (e.g. in Serbia and Africa) are infected with Wuhan pneumonia even after having been inoculated with China’s Sinovac vaccine. When the vaccine becomes not only a scientific issue, but also a political issue about losing face, the consequence will be the same as last year - any appeal for or advice on China pragmatically handling the virus issue has “ulterior motive” behind, is “rumor-mongering and trouble-making” and “politicization”. And the more government tackles the problem this way, the more serious the crisis of confidence becomes. Even if 30% of it is true, it will be deemed 100% fraudulent; if its efficacy reaches 50%, it will be deemed totally useless. There is a proverb widely circulated in the West: Never believe anything until it is officially denied. That is the true picture of the current government.

Fraudulent figure of LeaveHomeSafe app downloaded undermines public credibility

Another example to illustrate the crisis of confidence in the government is the LeaveHomeSafe app boycotted by a large number of Hong Kong citizens. Yesterday, LIHKG users brought to light the fact that the number of downloading times of the app, which can be used only in Hong Kong, ranks number one among all health apps in Cape Verde, Bermuda and even Fiji, which is a miracle in the Hong Kong IT sector and an unprecedented undertaking accomplished by the Innovation and Technology Bureau!

With the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong having declined by 99%, and visitors from all around the world unable to come to Hong Kong, unless the figure is fake, what else can explain why the people in the abovementioned countries fall over each other to download the LeaveHomeSafe app? It has also spelt out why armies of citizens would prefer to line up outside eateries for putting down their names and contacts rather than download the app. The citizens prefer believing eateries’ operators and their staff members to the government, which did not even bother to come up with a single means to boost citizens’ confidence, but created a fraudulent figure by hook or crook such as “buying likes”. That could be the final nail in the coffin for the public credibility of the government, which has already plunged into a nadir.

Quite a number of IT professionals pointed out that to strengthen nationals’ confidence in an app like this, overseas countries would make the source code known to the public. Alfred Sit Wing-hang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, went so far as to refuse to make it public in the name of respecting intellectual property rights – has it not been bought out by the government via tendering? Could the government not state clearly the source code shall be made public in the tendering? Such an unconvincing pretext would only undermine citizens’ confidence in the government. Unfortunately, it happened that more functions that infringe upon privacy, such as checking in by automatic scanning with Bluetooth, were added to the app by the government. Eventually, only a smidgen of people downloaded it. The government should be held fully accountable for forcing through a reactionary policy in a perverse way instead of solving the confidence crisis.

(Kay Lam, commentator)

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