PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 December, 2008, 12:00am

Pneumococcal vaccine move applauded

Each year 1.6 million people die from a serious, common, and preventable disease that most people have never heard of.

Pneumococcal disease - which causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis - is the world's leading infectious killer of young children, yet it has largely escaped the world's radar.

These deaths are preventable with the use of safe, effective and affordable vaccines available now to those in need.

Hong Kong showed leadership last month when it announced that it would introduce the pneumococcal vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme, making it available free to newborns from next year.

This is an important step forward for Asia, which is home to five of the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of pneumococcal disease cases.

By taking this step, the children of Hong Kong will become among the first in East Asia to routinely be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

Last year, the World Health Organisation recommended pneumococcal conjugate vaccines for use worldwide and the global alliance for vaccines and immunisation and donor countries have promised more than US$1.5 billion to make the vaccines available to poor countries through a mechanism known as the advance market commitment. More than 100 professional medical societies and institutions around the world have joined the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts to issue a global call to action urging policymakers to make pneumococcal prevention a priority.

The council, a project of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, along with the Hong Kong Paediatric Society , the Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention and the Asian Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases applaud Hong Kong for its decision regarding the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and they want governments in the region and around the world to do the same. Prevention of this disease will require a co-ordinated global effort. We have the vaccines, the finances and the demand to prevent this disease. What we need now is political will.

The price of action will be measured in dollars. The price of inaction will be measured in deaths and illnesses that could have been prevented.

Ciro de Quadros, executive vice-president, Sabin Vaccine Institute,

Lulu C. Bravo, chairwoman, Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention

Your money or your life?

I refer to the letter from Nelson Tam ('Civil service pay', December 6).

It is unfortunate that the Hong Kong public believes that all civil servants turn up for work in the morning, go home at 5pm and get paid too much money in the process. We seem to forget the police, fire, ambulance and other personnel who work shift hours, covering each hour of each and every day of the year. These people often put their lives on the line and sometimes they sacrifice themselves for others.

Police and fire officers have died in the course of their duties during the last year.

Are these people paid too much? Are there 'counterparts in private firms' that we can compare to these people before claiming that they are paid too much and enjoy too many benefits?

To claim that civil servants never work overtime is unfair to those who work extra hours to fight crime, put out fires, save lives and to do the things that make Hong Kong the generally safe and prosperous place it is.

Nick Pearson, Aberdeen

HK's mascot of unbridled greed

As Joan Miyaoka ('Not a fair trade', December 8) and others have pointed out, the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, or any expansion of the airport, would pose a serious danger to the long-term survival of the Chinese white dolphins.

The estuarine waters to the north and west of Lantau are critical habitats for the dolphins. They need this area far more than any greedy developers do, yet we keep chiselling away at it with the pathetic excuse that lining the developers' pockets creates more jobs, even if mostly temporary ones in construction.

Any mention of mitigation measures merely reflects the fact that the project in question is indeed detrimental to the environment. The only effective 'mitigation' is to recognise that further concreting of the Lantau area is likely to be the final nail in the dolphins' coffin, and act accordingly. Handover mascot indeed - only if the dolphins are a symbol of what happens as a result of uncontrolled development and a total lack of conscience. Shame on Hong Kong if we allow this to happen.

Janet Walker, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch

A taste of the real world

I refer to the letter by Paul Surtees ('Valuable work experience', December 4).

I welcome the general positive feedback of the pilot scheme of the faculty of arts and sciences [of the Hong Kong Institute of Education] that requires our undergraduates to take full-time vacation jobs in sectors other than education.

Teachers are an invaluable resource within the education system. The opportunity will enable our students to gain exposure to real life work situations, widen their horizons and strengthen their ability to handle stress at work.

The institute was granted self-accrediting status in 2004. Currently, we provide doctoral, masters and undergraduate degrees, postgraduate diplomas, certificate courses and a range of in-service programmes to about 7,000 pre-service students and serving teachers.

In particular, the faculty of arts and sciences offers a bachelor of music in education (contemporary music and performance pedagogy) (honours) programme.

The programmes offered by the institute provide training to those who are interested in becoming professionally trained graduate teachers in Hong Kong.

Thomas Wong, dean, faculty of arts and sciences, Hong Kong Institute of Education

Planning board loses the plot

There is presently a Town Planning Board notice advising of a proposal to rezone a site in Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, from 'open space' to 'commercial'.

One of the main functions of this statutory board is to control the use of land. The planning intention of the 'open space' zone on statutory plans has always been for the enjoyment of the general public or local residents. It is not to be used for development plot ratio purposes.

This notice is on a 24-storey commercial building, so perhaps the government can advise whether this is a case of 'putting the cart before the horse' or of 'closing the stable door after the horse has bolted'?

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

Silver lining

Given the clear skies we have enjoyed in these past few months it begs the question if this is a direct result of a slowdown in industry over the border.

Certainly there is a high correlation in timing with the deepening economic crisis.

The darker the economic clouds, the clearer the skies, or so it seems. Favourable weather may have a part to play.

But whether you are still working or recently unemployed, the lack of pollution is a real silver lining in these gloomy times.

Christopher Pearce, Discovery Bay