Medical experts in Hong Kong are divided on whether the government should go ahead with its order for 7.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following the latest findings linking the jab to rare blood clots
The European Medicines Agency announced that unusual blood clots should be listed as a very rare, possible side-effect of the AstraZeneca jab, adding that its benefits still outweigh the risks.
The regulator had not been able to identify pre-existing risk factors in clotting cases, although most victims were women under the age of 60.
Speaking on an RTHK radio show on Thursday, William Chui from the Society of Hospital Pharmacists explained that this might be linked to the widespread use of oral contraceptives among young women in Europe, as birth control pills can also cause blood clots.
Though AstraZeneca has yet to apply for emergency use in Hong Kong, Chui said the government should only purchase, at most, half of the original order of 7.5 million doses.
While officials might be contractually obliged to buy a certain amount, he said it would be wasteful to go ahead with the original order as Hong Kong people might be reluctant to get this jab.
The expert urged the government to consider alternatives – like the Johnson & Johnson jab – to diversify risks and increase public confidence in vaccines.
David Hui from the Chinese University also told RTHK that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a good choice, adding that officials can also consider waiting for second-generation shots.
He said according to his understanding, the SAR government has only entered into an initial agreement with AstraZeneca, which means it is still possible to scrap the order altogether.
Hui's comment was echoed by University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung, who also urged the government to cancel the AstraZeneca order, saying there's no evidence to show that it is any better than the two vaccines currently on offer in the territory.
But unlike Chui and Hui, Ho cautioned against purchasing viral vector-based vaccines, such as the Johnson & Johnson jab.
He warned that like AstraZeneca, problems such as rare blood blots could also emerge from the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.