Experts "not rule out" delays in local vaccine program

Local | 16 Jan 2021 4:06 pm

Health experts in Hong Kong said they would not rule out a delay in the Covid vaccination program amid concerns over side effects of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, following reports of deaths in Norway. 

The vaccine, one of the three shots included in the local inoculation campaign, sparked fears as 23 people in Norway died after receiving the same jab. 

Members of a government advisory panel on the vaccine David Hui Shu-cheong and Wallace Lau Chak-sing said the program might be postponed after the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February. 

In a radio program, Hui, a respiratory medical expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the advisory panel had just received more than a thousand pages of data provided by the vaccine developers, and would thoroughly review it before deciding whether to grant emergency approval.

“After examining the existing data, we will have to ask develops to provide more information. What did they find from the autopsy reports? Were the deaths linked to the vaccines?” Hui said. 

So far, around 33,000 people in Norway have received their first shots, with three-quarters of the 29 people suffering from potential side effects being elderly. 

Lau, convenor of the government’s 12-member advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines, said outbreak risks can be greatly reduced if 70 percent of Hong Kong residents receive the jabs. 

But the committee would first review the quality and safety of the vaccines, he added. If the vaccines’ effectiveness did not meet their expectations, the panel would ask the government to cancel the program. 

He said authorities are considering to introduce a fourth vaccine, which he thinks might “complicate things."

Hui said some 7 million jabs of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine would arrive in six batches, with approximately 1 to 1.5 million shots each time. 

Since the shots needed to be inoculated within six hours after dilution, Hui suggested elderly citizens who are more active to receive the shots in community centers, while officials can provide door-to-door inoculations for care home residents. 

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