First batch of Covid vaccines to arrive next month

Local | 12 Dec 2020 12:45 pm

The first batch of Covid vaccines would be arriving at Hong Kong as soon as next month, Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said. 

Chan told a radio program that the government would only purchase coronavirus jabs from manufacturers after clinical tests proved they were effective.

Chan’s remarks came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor unveiled “groundbreaking” procurement deals with two pharmaceutical giants and another agreement with a third to provide free shots for a 7.5 million-population. 

But Chan admitted that the first batch of 1 million vaccines might not shield citizens from infection, as experts suggested first-generation vaccines could only protect people from further complications. 

“We are in advance purchase agreements at the moment. The Department of Health’s scientific committees and the Centre for Health Protection are gathering more data to study them,” said Chan.

The health minister agreed top officials can be the first to get the shots as a way to boost public confidence. 

On Friday, Lam said the administration had secured 15 million shots vaccines from the orders. 

The first batch of vaccines, from mainland supplier Sinovac Biotech, is expected to arrive next month, while another million shots co-developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US-based Pfizer would come no later than the first quarter of 2021. 

In an upcoming deal, the third company, AstraZeneca, would also deliver 7.5 million shots to the city earliest by the second half of next year. 

High-risk groups, including the elderly, medics, seniors and workers in care homes, would be inoculated first under the voluntary-based scheme.  However, residents would not be able to choose the brand of vaccine.

Asked if Hongkongers would be concerned with vaccines supplied by a mainland firm, Lam urged citizens to remain apolitical and trust her team’s scientific assessments.

Chan added officials could lead the way if people were worried about the vaccines’ quality and safety. 

“If this can give residents confidence, we will definitely do it,” she said. 

On Friday, the city reported 86 additional infections, including 37 of unknown origin, bringing the official tally 7,377 infections and 114 related deaths. 

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