The place with surprisingly high vaccine hesitancy

Hong Kong’s experience illustrates the litany of challenges at play in this part of the world. Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, who provoked mass protests two years ago with a bumbling adventure to push through an extradition bill, remains wildly unpopular. Her government has appeared at times more focused on reengineering Hong Kong’s voting process further in favor of pro-Beijing politicians and attacking prodemocracy figures than on addressing the pandemic. These various campaigns have at times merged with the obvious uneven application of social-distancing regulations and pandemic controls. There have also been hard-charging “ambush style” lockdowns, racist comments, and quickly aborted restrictions, all of which have dented the government’s credibility. Even wealthy expatriates have had their protective bubble of political aloofness and boozy brunches popped, recently turning their anger on the authorities for their quarantining mandates.

As a result of this mass alienation, nearly every pandemic measure announced by Lam and her government is viewed with intense suspicion, particularly when they relate to CoronaVac, a vaccine produced by the Chinese firm Sinovac, which was given rushed approval by a Hong Kong panel of experts last month despite a lack of data from the company. These huge levels of distrust, as well as a halt to administering the BioNTech shot because of an issue with packaging, have helped slow vaccine rollout efforts to a crawl. (Though BioNTech partners with Pfizer for its distribution in most countries, its vaccine is distributed in Hong Kong through a deal with China’s Fosun Pharma.)