PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am

Children need protection from serious disease

I read with interest the article regarding the absence of the Streptococcus pneumoniae vaccination in the inoculation programme for young children funded by the government ('Sick tots spark free-vaccine call', December 20).

My daughter, then aged 11 months, who had not received this vaccination, suffered haemolytic uremic syndrome as a complication of streptococcal pneumonia in 2005. She spent eight weeks in the paediatric intensive care unit at Queen Mary Hospital, followed by seven weeks in the paediatric renal unit at Princess Margaret Hospital, and was then discharged home on renal dialysis. While we have been very fortunate in that she was able to cease dialysis after one year, she continues to require excellent follow-up care from the paediatric renal team at Princess Margaret Hospital, and faces a life with chronic renal failure, with the requisite renal diet, medications and so forth.

My daughter received excellent care in the Hong Kong public hospital system. However, the current and future cost of her illness, especially in relation to the cost of the vaccination, is enormous.

I cannot see that a cost-benefit analysis, as suggested by Director of Health Lam Ping-yan, is necessary. This vaccination is already required in several other countries. Our children deserve the same protection from serious diseases.

Gillian Fox, Shouson Hill

Disc surgery experimental

We refer to the report ('Treatment for back pain without loss of flexibility', December 17), which requires clarification. We would like to give an unbiased overview of this type of surgical treatment.

It is very important for the lay person to know that the majority of degenerated discs are not painful and most back pains are not caused by degenerated discs. The type of disc surgery described in your report is generally referred to as disc replacement surgery and is a hot topic and there has been research into it since the turn of the century.

Broadly speaking, the concept of artificial disc replacement is not significantly different from replacement of the hips. But whereas the art of hip replacement - which has been developed for more than 40 years - is well established, disc replacement surgery is very new by orthopaedic standards and will need many more years to become established.

It is common knowledge artificial hips or knees have a lifespan of about 10 years. When they break down, they need to be revised surgically. The surgery gets increasingly difficult with each subsequent revision.

The early prototypes of artificial discs have shown they break down at two to three years. Some have also developed spontaneous fusions.

There has been a massive amount of research into this field and many new prototypes of artificial discs are being marketed. The one described in your article is just one of them. The main feature of this prototype is that it is a nucleus replacement rather than a total replacement. There is an inherent problem in applying this type of replacement into a degenerated disc. When a disc degenerates, the peripheral part and the nucleus degenerate at the same time. Replacing only the nucleus is rather like re-inflating a leaking tyre with another filler but leaving the worn-down cracking rubber untouched. As the periphery continues to degenerate the disc will fail.

There is no published evidence to show that any form of disc replacement surgery is superior to conventional methods of surgical treatment. We would like to warn your readers not to rush into this type of surgery.

Please talk to your orthopaedic surgeon first, as this type of surgery is still considered by many as experimental.

Dr Sun Lun-kit, honorary secretary, public information committee, the Hong Kong College of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Airport noise is intolerable now

I refer to the report on a Chinese University study ('Chek Lap Kok urgently needs third runway: university study', December 21). How much does Law Cheung-kwok, a member of the university's aviation policy and research centre, know about 'the cost of pollution'. The noise from the airport for nearby residents has already reached unbearable levels in its frequency and severity. Complaints have been ignored by the Civil Aviation Department.

I expect there will be suggestions for a fourth and fifth runway, because of fears that mainland cities are building more runways. What shall we do next - build runways in our country parks?

The university should do more research into the noise pollution caused by airports.

Lam Fai-chung, Tuen Mun

Cut our losses on Disneyland

Rather than inject further cash into Disneyland and tie up significant resources for many years to come, the government should consider the option of closing down the theme park and selling off the site to property developers.

With the infrastructure, transport links, hotels and shops already in place, Penny's Bay could be easily transformed into a residential zone, such as Ma Wan or Discovery Bay, in less than five years. The land premiums would not only recoup the original investment but would also provide a windfall that could be used for a more useful purpose, such as providing the initial funding for a pension scheme for the elderly.

The number of jobs lost would be minimal as some of the management and entertainers at Disneyland are not locals and the new town would generate its own employment opportunities.

Divesting itself of the theme park would also be in line with the administration's avowed principles of 'big market, small government' and 'market leads, government facilitates'.

It is time to bite the bullet and cut our losses.

Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan

Teacher setting a bad example

Just because someone is a native speaker of English that alone is not enough to make her (or him) suitable as a language teacher.

To my horror, I recently met an unsuitable school teacher. She used phrases like 'dude', 'totally stoked' and 'anyways'.

We do not want our future generations of school graduates speaking in that way.

Rob Leung, Wan Chai

No bags policy was correct

ParknShop should have stuck to its 'no plastic bags' policy.

It was taking the initiative with this policy and I feel its rivals would have followed suit and we would have seen a reduction in the use of plastic bags.

Besides, the campaign would have helped raise public awareness about environmental issues and brought about a gradual change in the habits of the public regarding plastic bags.

Before the implementation of their plastic bag policy, people usually took being given the bags for granted. However, shortly after the policy was introduced people seemed to change their shopping habits by bringing their own bags. As one of the biggest retailers in Hong Kong, it was important for ParknShop to take responsibility for reducing the number of non-biodegradable plastic bags in use.

It should not have given up its green policy, no matter how tough that challenge was.

Lo Man-yung, Hung Hom