The graph is skyrocketing and the statistics are not lying.
The omicron variant of the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 caused Hong Kong, which had one of the lowest covid-19 death rates in the world, to suddenly have the highest daily death rate per capita.
And we’re talking about a remarkable jump.
Because before omikron made its entrance into the city in February with around 7.5 million inhabitants, only 212 corona deaths were registered in Hong Kong.
Official figures show that as of 12 May, as many as 9,355 corona deaths have been registered in the city of millions, over 9,000 of them related to the winter wave of infection with the omicron variant.
But how could this happen, triggered by a virus variant that has proven less dangerous than previous variants of the coronavirus through the pandemic?
A key reason for this is the island town’s handling of vaccinations, writes the leading medical journal British Medical Journal (BMJ) in a news article.
The former British colony, returned to China in 1997, consists of three districts: Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, which include part of the mainland plus 235 islands.
Hong Kong is the world’s third leading trade and finance center after New York and London, according to Large Norwegian encyclopedia.
There is no doubt that the strict Chinese coronary restrictions led to Hong Kong having very low infection rates earlier in the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the omicron eruption in February led to thousands of deaths and an unworthy situation with a cramped health care system and overcrowded morgues.
The terrible situation is related to the fact that only 43 percent of residents over the age of 80 had received their first vaccination dose when the infection rates skyrocketed at the end of February 2022.
At the end of April, more than 70 per cent of the deaths were among patients aged 80 or older, of which 73 per cent were unvaccinated.
This is despite the fact that corona vaccines had been readily available in Hong Kong since February 2021.
Experts BMJ has spoken to, believe that both the authorities, doctors and the media contributed to a politicized vaccine debate that led to widespread mistrust and vaccine hesitation in the population, especially among the elderly.
Although the mRNA vaccine has been shown to be more effective against the omicron variant, prominent politicians have been vaccinated with the less effective Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
– The government’s advisory panel for covid-19 vaccines would say that Pfizer was more clinically effective, and the entire political elite would go and get Sinovac. The way vaccines were made available to people was very politicized. This created confusion about who you can trust in matters of safety and effectiveness, says Associate Professor Karen Grepin at the Hong Kong University School of Public Health, according to BMJ.
Vaccination with Pfizer was temporarily halted just one month after the rollout due to defective packaging, further contributing to the confusion and mistrust.
The media also contributed to increased vaccination delay.
“Every time someone died in Hong Kong during the first 14 days after vaccination, it was reported what their vaccination status was, even though there may not have been a causal link,” says Grepin.
– It created a lot of concern for the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine very early. The audience read the headlines and drew their conclusions, says Siddharth Sridhar, a clinical virologist at Hong Kong University.
It is also pointed out that the government advised people with chronic diseases, who were worried about vaccine side effects, to consult their doctor before vaccination.
This may have given the impression that the vaccines were dangerous for older people and those with chronic diseases, and that a person had to be healthy to be vaccinated, the expertise believes.
“Medical professionals welcomed discussions about vaccination with patients because they were concerned with offering their paid services at private clinics,” says Grepin.
A study from the University of Hong Kong, published in March this year, found that vaccination skepticism was highest among people aged 65 and older.
– Great importance
Assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad believes that the relatively low vaccine support among older people in Hong Kong undoubtedly created problems for the health service earlier this winter.
– Because morbidity and mortality are high among unvaccinated elderly people, especially those over 80, it is of great importance when less than half of them are fully vaccinated – especially in the face of the micron variant where mRNA vaccines have also been shown to provide the best protection, says Nakstad to Dagbladet.
He believes the high number of seriously ill people in Hong Kong earlier this winter may explain why the Chinese authorities have maintained many infectious measures in other major cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing.
– If one is to get out of such a difficult situation, probably the most vulnerable inhabitants must be better immunized with a vaccine. Maybe you also need to give more refreshment doses to someone, says Nakstad.