'If a doctor doesn't trust it, what kind of message does that send?'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 April, 2011, 12:00am


While the MMR vaccine controversy does not seem to be on parents' radars in the city, they are not immune to scares over vaccinations.

Early last year, at the height of the swine flu scare, Hong Kong people all but stopped getting that vaccine. The vaccinations fell sharply amid news that several women had suffered failed pregnancies after receiving the vaccine, and one person was afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that causes paralysis.

The government continued to urge the public to get the swine flu shot, but few people listened. The difference in this case was that some doctors refused to administer the vaccine, and many did not get the shot themselves. Fewer than 10 per cent of health care workers were inoculated three months after the vaccine became available.

'If a doctor doesn't trust it, what kind of message do you think that sends to patients?' said Lam Tai-pong, a professor of family medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

Lam said his patients had picked up the trend of using the internet to find out about their conditions - which can backfire when the information is wrong.

'The internet is full of information, but you shouldn't fully trust every bit of information,' he said. 'But it does mean that doctors will have to be more patient in explaining to their patients what it's all about.'

This translated into a more democratic attitude among patients in Western countries where patients constantly asked questions about their treatment. '[In Western countries] they like to be fully informed of what is going to happen to them,' Lam said.

But for Lam, medical truths are cut and dried. 'We should believe in current evidence,' he said. 'There is no reason why we should consider anything otherwise.'