Hong Kong is ill-prepared for new form of swine flu virus

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am

It is regrettable to hear that the Hong Kong government is scrapping travellers' swine flu controls ('Flu controls at HK borders will be dropped soon', December 2).

The news comes amid worldwide reports of a mutated swine flu virus which has been observed on the mainland, in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine and the United States ('Mutated swine flu virus found in 8 people', November 27).

Just like the first wave of the swine flu virus, it is a certainty rather than a likelihood that this new (and possibly more deadly) form of the virus will infiltrate Hong Kong, and we will be ill-prepared to contain the spread.

It is also interesting to note that the government is still pressing ahead with the mass vaccination programme in Hong Kong at the end of the year ('Cool reaction to upcoming swine flu vaccination', December 1). The viral content of the vaccine was formulated at least four months ago and will not work against the new mutation. In much the same way as happens with the regular flu vaccine, the viral content must be changed at suitable intervals to keep up to date with the ever-mutating virus.

Before each regular flu season, vaccine makers must estimate how the virus may mutate. But virus mutation is often unpredictable. This imprecise method is why regular flu vaccines do not necessarily work all that well year in, year out.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government is stuck with 3 million doses of H1N1 vaccine with diminishing effectiveness. In addition, none of these vaccines are being properly tested for side effects by the government or any independent body not connected with the manufacturers.

It is therefore not surprising that half of all our health care workers have refused to be inoculated with the swine flu vaccine, ('Vaccine take-up rate 'not bad',' August 29). Perhaps we should listen to what they have to say, rather than gambling our health on untested and ineffective vaccines.

Sean Niem, Mid-Levels