Govt to resume BioNTech inoculations on April 5 - RTHK
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Govt to resume BioNTech inoculations on April 5

2021-04-01 HKT 15:43
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  • Govt to resume BioNTech inoculations on April 5
Richard Pyne reports
The government announced on Thursday that it will resume its BioNTech vaccination programme with a new batch of doses shipped over from Germany on April 5 – 12 days after their use was suspended because of “packaging defects”.

The use of BioNTech vaccines was, on the recommendation of the manufacturer, suspended on March 24, affecting the appointments of around 180,000 people, including 30,000 who were booked in to get their second dose.

Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip, who heads the administration’s Covid-19 inoculation drive, said an investigation had found no evidence that the defects would affect the jabs’ safety or efficacy.

“They found out that in the vials packed at the site which provided batch [210102 and 210104] there were issues related to the so-called ‘crimping’ process… and at the same time, the condition of ultra-low temperature of -70 degrees,” said Director of Health Constance Chan, adding that new vials had been sent that would not be affected by these problems.

Some 300,000 additional doses will arrive in the city on Friday.

BioNTech and its distributor Fosun Pharma had only submitted an interim report into the issue so far, so the batches that Hong Kong had been using prior to the suspension will remain in storage for now.

Nip said people who have booked a BioNTech jab from April 5 can get the vaccine as scheduled.

Those who were originally scheduled to receive their second shot of the vaccine on or before April 4 will be assigned a new time slot between April 5 and April 10.

People who had bookings cancelled for their first shots will receive a text message in the coming days stating their new appointment date and time, Nip said.

Dr Siddharth Sridhar, an assistant microbiology professor from the University of Hong Kong, said he's happy to see the resumption of BioNTech jabs.

"I hope Hong Kong can make up for lost time and continue its drive towards herd immunity," he said.

Chan said the administration had all along taken reports of abnormalities regarding the vaccines very seriously, and an investigation was needed to confirm there were no safety or quality issues.

“I think it would not be correct to overrule the manufacturer’s recommendation,” she said. “It is the manufacturer who possesses the in-depth knowledge on the manufacturing process, and we would rely on the manufacturer to conduct a thorough investigation and submit the full report to us and upon scrutiny of the complete investigation report we would decide what to do.”

“So I think it is important, a prudent approach, to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to suspend the use of the concerned batch.”

Another vaccine, made by mainland manufacturer Sinovac, is also available in Hong Kong.

Nip said a total of 505,000 shots of the two vaccines have been administered so far. Around 461,000 people have only received one dose.

Nip says about seven percent of the population aged 16 and above have been vaccinated to date, but this is far below the target needed to reach herd immunity.

Sridhar also said the vaccination rate so far is not satisfactory and expressed concern about a possible rise in infections during the Easter break.

"People let their guard down understandably given the long holiday, so it's going to be quite a critical time," he said.

"There are not enough people vaccinated in Hong Kong at the moment to make a big impact on community transmission, so I'm afraid in this holiday... we have to remain extra vigilant."
Last updated: 2021-04-01 HKT 16:50