COVID-19 Vaccination - A One Health No-Brainer

7 June 2021


Professor Nikolaus Osterrieder delivered a distinguished lecture for the Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study.

The most pressing task to take the COVID-19 response to the next phase is vaccination. One of the world’s leading molecular virologists, Professor Nikolaus Osterrieder, Dean of Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), presented a virtual talk titled “COVID-19 Vaccination - A One Health No-Brainer” for the Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study (HKIAS) Distinguished Lecture at CityU on 3 June 2021.

Hong Kong should not squander a unique opportunity to protect itself and others from COVID-19, addressed by Professor Nikolaus Osterrieder, Chair Professor of Virology and One Health of Department of Infectious Diseases and Public Health at CityU. In the talk, he highlighted that the latest scientific evidence showed COVID-19 vaccines are efficacious and safe. More importantly, vaccination is a critical public health tool for containing the pandemic by reaching herd immunity.

According to the basic reproduction numbers, Professor Osterrieder said a vaccination rate of around 70% population has to be achieved for COVID herd immunity. In Hong Kong, the COVID-19 vaccination programme debuted in February 2021, and only less than 20% of the Hong Kong population has received their first dose. He expected that Hong Kong could reach herd immunity by January or February next year.

For instance, other places like Israel, EU countries, the UK, and the US either have reached, or will reach very soon, the 70% target this year thanks to strong vaccine programmes.

Moreover, vaccination is highly efficient on a population level. Professor Osterrieder added that the number of new cases has dramatically reduced after vaccines were rolled out in those places.

Professor Michael Yang Mengsu, Vice-President (Research and Technology) of CityU, was the moderator of the lecture.

Hong Kong must overcome vaccine hesitancy, Professor Osterrieder advised. Only herd immunity will ultimately reduce the massive burden to society and the economy. To get as many people vaccine as possible, he suggested that people who received the vaccine or planned to get a vaccine could discuss with their family and friends to do the same.

The virus will not go away and will become endemic, Professor Osterrieder concluded. That means we will have to live with it by mitigating its potentially devastating effects, similar to how we live with other infectious diseases, e.g., measles, influenza, and chickenpox. He reaffirmed that vaccination is the only reasonable and responsible pathway to achieving herd immunity and ending the pandemic.

Professor Osterrieder is an expert in virus pathogenesis. Recently, his research focuses on influenza and coronaviruses, including SARS- and MERS-CoV, infectious bronchitis virus in chickens, and canine coronaviruses.

Professor Osterrieder is currently the Adjunct Professor of Virology at Cornell University. He has published more than 230 scientific papers, and an h-index of 51. He is an editor and member of the editorial board of several journals, and his honors include membership in the Academy of Sciences of Thuringia since 2014, the Young Investigator Award of the Academy for Animal Health (2002), and the WVPA-Boehringer Ingelheim Vaccine Innovation Award (2017).

Professor Yang (first from left), Professor Jacob C. Huang, Executive Director of HKIAS (first from right), three Senior Fellows of HKIAS, including Professor David J. Srolovitz, (second from right), Professor Chain-Tsuan Liu (third from right), Professor Philippe G. Ciarlet (fourth from right), and Professor King-Ning Tu, Chair Professor of Department of Materials Science and Engineering of CityU (second from left), attended Professor Osterrieder (third from left)’s lecture.

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