Jabs in March as BioNTech cleared

Top News | Mandy Zheng 26 Jan 2021

The BioNTech vaccine has been approved by authorities for emergency use - the first to be given the green light in Hong Kong.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee yesterday approved the vaccine developed by the German drug manufacturer for emergency use with immediate effect. Vaccinations should start in early March, according to government adviser Leung Pak-yin.

BioNTech partnered with China's Fosun Pharma - instead of its global codeveloper Pfizer - to test and distribute the jab in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau.

The first one million doses that Hong Kong ordered have already finished production and are currently undergoing safety and quality tests, the government said. The first batch is expected to arrive late next month.

Local authorities will then examine the products' quality and begin a vaccination scheme as soon as possible.

BioNTech and Fosun will be required to continue to submit the latest clinical trial statistics, renewed safety reports and quality certification documents.

Hong Kong has ordered three types of vaccines - 7.5 million doses of each - and joined a World Health Organization-led vaccine distribution program.

Chan's decision was based on recommendations of the advisory panel on vaccines, which said the benefits of authorizing the jab outweigh the risks.

The panel said some countries have reported suspected adverse conditions after getting the BioNTech jab.

"Some of the vaccine's common side effects, such as fever or nausea, may affect those already in poor health," it said, adding that authorities will determine prioritized groups for the vaccine accordingly.

It said global statistics showed the mortality rate among older people did not increase abnormally after inoculation.

Officials had planned to kick off vaccination after the Lunar New Year and finish inoculating most people by the year-end.

Leung, a former Hospital Authority chief, said healthier elderly home residents should be the first to be vaccinated alongside caretakers.

It might be improper to include the elderly with serious diseases in the scheme given the vaccine's side effects, he added.

High-risk workers - including medics, disciplinary officers, civil servants arranging quarantine and cross-border truck drivers - may also get priority.

Leung said there is no plan to make participation in the scheme compulsory, although those who have been inoculated may be exempted from quarantine as incentive.


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