Officials must learn from failure of swine flu vaccine programme
With the swine flu scare late last year and early this year, many people were worried about being infected.
The government launched a programme to vaccinate 2 million people in high-risk categories. However, most Hongkongers did not have the vaccination and the scheme eventually ended with 2.8 million unused shots. They will be disposed of at the chemical waste treatment centre.
I believe the main reason for the wastage was a loss of public confidence in the vaccines, partly through a fear of possible side effects. Shortly after the scheme was launched, several recipients were reported to have developed a kind of nerve cell disorder, although the government denied this was caused by the vaccine ('Fear of side effects sank swine flu scheme', August 28). Despite denials, public confidence was not restored.
We must look at what went wrong so there is no repeat of these problems with future flu vaccination programmes. It is essential to restore public confidence in government vaccination schemes by all possible means. The new 3-in-1 seasonal flu vaccines arrive this month. They will protect people against swine flu and two other flu strains. If need be, tests and human trials should be carried out in Hong Kong to prove to people that the jabs will not have any harmful effects. This can help clear up any misunderstandings and quash rumours.
The government should launch a publicity campaign through pamphlets and television adverts, assuring citizens that the new 3-in-1 shots are safe. People will feel much more comfortable about having the vaccination if they are given all the necessary information and assured that it is safe. The number of people who are willing to have the vaccination will increase.
It is all about building up mutual trust and the government should launch its publicity campaign as soon as possible. If this is done, then the new inoculation programme will be more effective.
Billy Cheuk Ka-lok, Wong Tai Sin