Over 10 Percent of Respondents and Their Families Did Not Report Their COVID Infections Leading to Concern of Elderly’s Underestimation of COVID Impact

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COVID cases have been escalating in Hong Kong recently. The research found that over 30 percent of elders who are not fully vaccinated tended to procrastinate or not get any COVID jabs. Some of them worried about the safety of getting the vaccines. Twelve percent of respondents and their families have not reported their positive results after taking rapid antigen tests (RAT).

The Patients and Healthcare Professionals Rights Association authorized Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute to conduct the survey on Aug. 15 and 16, 2022. They announced the results on Sept. 4, 2022.

A total of 664 elders of age 60 or above were interviewed, 47 percent said that the adverse effect of COVID is becoming mild, 31 percent considered the infection rate of COVID to be low, and 10 percent thought that those of age 60 to 69 would get a severer medical condition or higher risk of death after infection with COVID. Over 40 percent regarded those with “three highs” (high cholesterol, high blood glucose, and hypertension) would have a relatively more serious medical condition and a high rate of death after infection.

Infectious disease specialist Joseph Tsang said that variants BA.5 is the most infectious virus so far. Its growth rate is faster than BA.2 by 35 percent. Its duplicating rate is 34 times higher than that of BA.2 inside human lung cells. COVID patients might suffer inflammation of heart cells, encounter difficulty in breathing, cardiac enlargement, or even death due to heart failure.

Joseph Tsang also said that BA.5 has a higher “immunity evading” power than BA.2. Previous BA.5 COVID patients can suffer the same variant more than once. Those getting the infection twice have experienced double mortality and triple the rate of hospitalization to those suffering once.

Research also found that 36 percent of elders with three jabs or below tended to procrastinate or did not get any COVID jabs. They expressed their concerns over the safety of vaccination. Some claimed that their health conditions are poor or they have already had long-term diseases.

Seventeen percent of respondents had been infected with COVID and 98 percent of those have had at least one symptom of “Long COVID.” The percentage is 128 percent higher than world data. Joseph Tsang reminded us that even asymptomatic cases might also develop Long COVID. Long COVID would lead to a higher risk of heart diseases or respiratory diseases.

Research also found that 12 percent of respondents and their families did not report having positive RAT tests. Ten percent took the RAT without due prudence. Eight percent were requested to have compulsory testing for COVID but they did not do so. Twenty-seven percent said that their friends did not report positive results on RAT. Joseph Tsang said that those who did not report their result of RAT cannot get the prescribed oral medication, as a result, they might suffer an increase in the severity of the illness, risk of hospitalization, or even death.

Joseph Tsang tried to persuade residents, particularly the elders to get COVID jabs as soon as possible to enhance their protection, rather than waiting for the newly developed drug “Bivalent Vaccine.”

Dr. Jeffery Pong, Convener of The Patients and Healthcare Professionals Rights Association, suggested elders could take RAT tests before they attend family or friends gatherings, or before they go to any crowded venues. Once they have symptoms of COVID or close contact with COVID patients, they need to conduct a RAT test immediately. They should report positive results and seek medication afterward.

Jeffery Pong also proposed the government can evaluate the existing outreach vaccination scheme. Two options of vaccines can be provided for residential care centers so that elders will get more protection in the next wave of COVID. The government can also enhance elder education on the proper procedures for conducting RAT tests and the importance of reporting positive COVID cases.

Matthew Wong

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Danny Tang

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