Authorities brace for worst as jab rate dips

Top News | Jane Cheung 5 Mar 2021

Authorities are "mentally prepared" to deal with more cases involving serious reactions or even death among people getting vaccinated, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen says, days after a 63-year-old man who was inoculated died.

The not-exactly encouraging comment by the coordinator of the government's vaccine program came as more people canceled their jab appointments yesterday, with public confidence falling despite experts' reassurances.

The government's Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment Following Covid-19 Immunisation said on Wednesday that the man's death on Sunday had no direct link with the mainland-made Sinovac jab he received two days before - on Friday last week, the first day of the government's vaccine rollout.

But people are backing out all the same. On the online booking system, more centers offering the Sinovac shots showed more dates available.

Those administering the German-made BioNTech/Fosun Comirnaty jabs, for which registration began on Wednesday, also saw most dates available for bookings.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Nip said there were 67 last-minute dropouts at centers for Sinovac's CoronaVac on Wednesday, as they were deemed unsuitable for inoculation. Nip said priority groups, including the elderly, are fully informed about the vaccines and those with questions can raise them with medics at centers.

He promised to improve the reporting mechanism of vaccine-related adverse events after authorities were slammed for the two-day delay in announcing the man's death.

Nip said 51,800 people have so far received the first dose of Sinovac's CoronaVac, with 256,000 people having made bookings so far.

Some 96,000 people have made bookings for the European-made BioNTech/Fosun jabs, with inoculations set to begin at seven vaccination centers on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday evening, 1,350 private doctors from 1,860 clinics have registered to participate in the vaccination program using only CoronaVac.

Around 1,000 have already booked their first batch of jabs from the Department of Health. Of these, 880 have received over 60,000 doses, with the remaining 120 expected to arrive by today.

Inoculations at private clinics began on Tuesday, with 13,700 people receiving the jabs by Wednesday.

"The daily vaccination number [at private clinics] is more than that of five vaccination centers. I'd say we've received some enthusiastic responses," Nip said.

Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, a member of the government's vaccination program task force, said as more people are inoculated, incidences of chronically ill vaccine recipients dying are "bound to happen."

He cited the inoculation program in Norway, with 23 elderly recipients dying afterward, when in fact, around 400 deaths are normally recorded among Norwegian care-home residents every week.

The former Centre for Health Protection controller said he believes that after clarification from authorities, the vaccination rate will go up again.

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