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  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 11:15pm

It is not too late to take measures against influenza

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

Your article 'Lack of demand may mean costly flu vaccines go to waste' (January 14) quoted Alvin Chan Yee-shing of the Medical Association as saying: 'It's January now and we are almost at the end of the peak [flu] season.' In fact, the peak season is about to begin. Records on the Department of Health's website show that it starts in Hong Kong between January and March, and lasts for months. Previous peak seasons started in February (2006), March (2004 and 2005), and January (2002 and 2003). It is therefore not too late to get vaccinated this month and next in preparation.


Hong Kong has made significant progress in promoting the flu vaccine. In 2002/03, before severe acute respiratory syndrome swept through the city, only 200,000 shots were administered. This number increased to well over a million in 2004/05 and 2005/06. The uptake would be even better if the government provided the vaccine free to everyone aged 65 or older, as the elderly are the biggest risk group. Instead, it has erected barriers by giving the vaccine free only to chronically ill elderly patients of the Hospital Authority or Department of Health, aged welfare recipients and a few other smaller groups.


Such restrictive policy was introduced to allow private medical practitioners to give most of the vaccines - in the name of the need for 'public-private co-operation'. However, this confuses private practitioners' interests with what should be purely a public-health exercise, to the public's detriment.


In 2005, for example, the Medical Association advised people to start getting flu shots in early October, shortly after the vaccine for the new season arrived and with the peak still four months away. For 2006/07, it repeatedly claimed the vaccine was in short supply, when we now know it is available in abundance. Such misinformation, together with that in your article, may contribute to the erratic uptake of the vaccine, causing people to rush to get it too early one year and give up taking it another.


If the government's aim is 'to secure an adequate supply of influenza vaccine for those in need', as stated in your article, it should make the flu programme a public health action - no more, no less. It should lift the many barriers that prevent people getting it, and stop mixing up the interests of private doctors with the health interests of the people.


DR LO WING-LOK, health spokesman, League of Social Democrats


Be guided by Guangdong


I was saddened but hardly surprised to read environment minister Sarah Liao Sau-tung's comment that Guangdong has cleaned up its power plants faster than Hong Kong 'due to a central government policy that held big power suppliers accountable for meeting their targets' ('Progress on emissions, so HK looks past 2010', January 15).


Dr Liao, is there not an inference to be drawn from your statement? Maybe your government could do the same. Rather than say the problem will continue, why not set stringent emissions standards for power companies, introduce real incentives for environmentally friendly energy sources and abolish all polluting vehicles from our roads within a year? The secret is out. Pollution is bad for your health, and our government is not doing enough to protect us.


TERRY SCOTT, Sha Tin


Strategy made simple


At a stroke, the 'source familiar with Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings' quoted in 'CKI mulls offers for holding in Sydney toll tunnel' (January 12) has revealed the holy grail of business strategy and ended the need for MBA courses: 'The deal would mean a trade-off between CKI's desire to 'get bigger' for longer term growth in Australia or to 'get smaller' by cashing in on the asset.' So that's what it all boils down to! Finally, we can all stop grappling with complexity and uncertainty and get on with our lives.


RICHARD BERESFORD, Mid-Levels


Irritating in the extreme


I usually find your Insight writer Lau Nai-keung irritating, and his latest offering was no different ('When you truly believe', January 12).


He writes that chief executive challenger Alan Leong Kah-kit should not pursue more votes because 'the 100 votes required for a nomination ticket is now more than fulfilled' and 'it will not serve any meaningful purpose getting more'. Strange, but I don't recall reading such advice from Mr Lau - or any other Beijing mouthpiece - when Tung Chee-hwa merrily acquired more than 700 nominations for his second term in office, thereby preventing any other candidates from standing.


'Like Santa Claus', Mr Lau writes, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen 'knows our wishes, and he will deliver'. Like he knows people wish that they could breathe clean air and does nothing? Like he knows that people vehemently oppose a government palace at Tamar but went ahead anyway? Like he knows that people want no more harbour reclamation and yet proceeds with Central Reclamation Phase III?


Offering another gem, Mr Lau declares: 'If we all believe in Mr Tsang being a good chief executive who will lead us out of our current predicaments, then the chances are that he will.' Is that how things work on your planet, Mr Lau? Think nice thoughts about the guy in charge and everything will be all right?


And here's Mr Lau on the possible outcome of a TV debate between Mr Tsang and Mr Leong: 'Just like Santa, [Mr Tsang] will put Mr Leong on his lap, listen to his whining, and then give him a wink and a hug ...'


I'm not sure which of the two participants would feel more insulted by such patronising nonsense. And 'whining', Mr Lau? A few paragraphs earlier you said Mr Leong's role was 'to highlight our priorities and anxieties, to help [Mr Tsang] clear up his thinking, and to offer alternatives...'


As I said, irritating in the extreme. I must be a masochist to have read to the end.


TIM GALLAGHER, Tai Koo Shing


Phase III above dispute


We strongly object to the allegation from Winston Chu Ka-sun of the Society for Protection of the Harbour that 'the government has not properly consulted the public over the Central Reclamation Phase III' ('Beyond dispute', January 12). In fact, Phase III has gone through all the necessary consultations and fully complied with the procedures required by the law.


The current Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan, which covers Phase III, was approved by the Chief Executive in Council in December 2002, after going through a due process of statutory town planning procedures and public consultation. Our public consultation has been extensive, covering the Legislative Council, the Central and Western District Council and professional bodies. There has been thorough public discussion on all the relevant matters, including the scale of reclamation and the usage of land.


After the Court of Final Appeal ruled in January 2004 that reclamation be justified on the basis of 'overriding public need', we immediately reviewed Phase III. We have published a report, made public, to explain why and how Phase III fully meets this test.


In an application for judicial review filed in 2003, the Society for Protection of the Harbour sought a court order directing the Chief Executive in Council to refer the outline zoning plan to the Town Planning Board for replacement or amendment. The application was refused.


While Mr Chu may choose to maintain a different view, the fact remains - and the community is entitled to know: Phase III has gone through a due process of procedures and public consultation.


LYDIA LAM, for secretary for housing, planning and lands


Worthy of admiration


Contrary to letter writer Craig Gibson's insinuation in 'One extremist's view' (January 11), Elsie Tu is not an extremist. I first communicated with her last year by mail after reading one of her books. She invited me to her home, and we talked for three hours. We agreed on many issues and disagreed on a few. She came across as human and unpretentious, and unafraid to admit being wrong or uncertain. Now aged 94, she is still a clear thinker. While I do not agree with all her letters to this page, I have to respect someone who stands up for what she believes is right.


CHOI CHO-HONG, Kwun Tong


Security sadly needed


In her letter 'Open your gates' (January 12), Sarah Li expresses discomfort at questions asked at the gate of the Ohel Leah Synagogue. May I say how sorry I am that we live in a world where security concerns call for such questioning. Five months ago, a woman was killed and six others wounded by an angry gunman at Seattle's Jewish Centre, an institution similar in size and scope to Hong Kong's Jewish Community Centre, which houses both the synagogue and the United Jewish Congregation. Would that the situation were otherwise, but I am sad to report that the Seattle attack was not an isolated incident. In Turkey, France and Australia, synagogues have been targeted and innocents have been murdered. Let us all pray for the day when security guards at houses of worship are superfluous and all can enter and leave in peace.


RABBI DAVID KOPSTEIN, United Jewish Congregation


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