We conducted a preliminary study in early summer 2021 on attitudes and practices of mask wearing and vaccination, surveying 200 participants from Hong Kong and 200 participants from the United States. This research was supported by a knowledge transfer grant from the Education University of Hong Kong (KT-2020-2021-0019) and the Sin Wai-Kin Fellowship from the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.
As Dr. Emma Buchtel explains in an interview published in German nonprofit organization Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung’s magazine Perspectives Asia, data from this preliminary survey showed around one-third of our respondents in Hong Kong were positive about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, despite believing that their chance of getting infected was quite low. Their reasons for taking the vaccine suggested that there were moral or peer pressure factors behind pro-vaccine attitudes: a desire to protect family and friends, belief that it was their civic duty. This group also had fewer safety concerns about the vaccine, and some hoped to be able to travel more conveniently.
Hong Kong’s COVID-19 vaccination program became available to the general adult public at the end of February 2021. We conducted our preliminary survey in late May 2021, when the vaccination rate was 15%, and around one-third of our Hong Kong participants said that they did not want to take the vaccine. These participants tended to believe that vaccines were unsafe, that vaccine production procedures were rushed, and they were worried about side effects. However, immediately after we conducted our survey, a local business group offered those who were vaccinated a chance to win an apartment in a lucky draw. We hoped this would incentivize more people to get vaccinated. With more people taking the vaccine, this would actually raise confidence and cause a snowball effect; hopefully the vaccination rate would continue to climb. (By mid-August 2021 Hong Kong had a fully vaccinated rate of 40%.)
See the full interview with Dr. Buchtel and her Education University colleague Dr. Liman Li for more information on the cultural psychology of mask and vaccine attitudes (pages 40-43, Perspectives Asia #10, Fabric of Society: Living through the Pandemic).