Hopes high for a wealthier, greener and fairer world - Swine Flu

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 January, 2010, 12:00am

You would think Hongkongers would be world experts in handling disease outbreaks. But the governments response to swine flu has not been without its critics. Health authorities are trying to vaccinate, for free, two million residents deemed at high risk of contracting the virus.

For Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, head of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, it's a matter of life and death. 'My New Year's resolution is to have more and more Hong Kong people taking the swine flu vaccination so lives can be saved,' he says. 'A swine flu peak is getting imminent and vaccination is the most effective way to protect us.'

Yuen says that as many as 200 people could die from the outbreak but an effective vaccination programme could reduce that number. 'There is no scientific evidence to show the vaccines are unsafe,' he says. 'In 1976, people in Britain thought that the vaccines for pertussis [whooping cough] could cause brain damage, and many parents did not bring their children for the vaccination. The same situation happened in 1997 when people in Britain worried if the vaccine for measles could cause autism and thus avoided the vaccination. Those worries were later proven as unfounded. In both cases, many unprotected children died. I don't want to see this happen here.'