"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"And while you could argue the government has overreacted, I'd opine their caution is correct"
As news broke this morning of shut Covid-19 vaccination centres, a palpable fear gripped the city. The first whiff I got of something untoward was RTHK's 'Backchat' show; the presenter happily relaying reports sent to them on Facebook around 9 am.
He was keen to stress the reports as 'unconfirmed'. Yet did I detect a degree of relish in his tone? After all, such a tidbit is manna from heaven for a journalist. He repeated the breaking news at least twice, all without any verification or fact-checking.
My Whatsapp soon filled with messages. These included a forwarded picture of a makeshift sign announcing BioNTech jabs' suspended. Next, I heard that Macau had stopped jabs with a public statement. By 9:30 am, the conspiracy nut-jobs had it that a cyberattack took out the Vaccine webpage and booking system. I soon confirmed this to be untrue by logging-on to the webpage without issue.
Over the next hour, the conspiracies escalated. In various forms, the lunatic fringe claimed that the government messed up the BioNTech vaccine to force us all to opt for Sinovac. The claimed motivation is to prove Hongkong's patriotism. This gem ignored certain realities.
For starters, why would the government give us a choice of vaccines and then opt to sabotage one? Plus, to date, two-third of jabs are Sinovac. Next, the government has enough on its plate organising and promoting vaccine use. Besides, China ordered millions of BioNtech doses, which destroys the patriotism argument. So all the conspiracy theories collapse as nonsensical naked fantasies.
Also, I find it perverse that Covid-19 causes so much misery and hardship for medical professionals, yet many of them discredit the government's efforts. In some of their utterances, you can see the bias spilling forth.
Some facts. The BioNTech vaccine comes in glass vials. Each vial contains five doses, although, by careful handling, it is possible to squeeze out six shots with a fine needle. While Hong Kong uses fine needles, it opts for five doses a vial to avoid any untoward issues.
The vials have four features that prevent leakage and cross-contamination. Even if one seal fails, the others provide redundancy. The first seal is a plastic cap, the second a metal cap and finally a rubber membrane. Also, inert gas pressurises the vials to prevent the intrusion of contamination if a seal fails. That pressure will also show any leaks by causing the liquid vaccine to expel, leaving a stain.
The government states that they've found 57 identifiable defects in 150,000 vials. That sounds well within production tolerance to me.
It would appear that during transportation, unwrapping and preparation for use, a few vials sustained damage. And that damage prompted the issue we've seen today. And while you could argue the government has overreacted, I'd opine their caution is correct. You can imagine the outcry if they'd pressed-on without investigation. Also, unscrupulous types could exploit the damaged vials with leaks to the press.
If my thinking is correct, with the harm caused by transportation, it's a straightforward matter. Physical checks with a 'Mark One Eyeball' should be enough before resuming the vaccination programme.
Even so, I accept the detractors have a new drum to beat. Listen out for the beat because they must seize upon any morsel to justify their falsehoods.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.