More male sufferers of post-jab facial paralysis

Top News | Jane Cheung 3 May 2021

More men than women have suffered from facial paralysis after receiving the Beijing-made Sinovac vaccine - 22 of the 29 cases recorded - says the government's post-inoculation reactions panel co-convener Ivan Hung Fan-ngai.

For most of the 29 cases, they developed Bell's Palsy facial paralysis on the left side of their faces if they received the jab on their left arm. Most saw the onset of the condition within 48 hours of vaccination.

Speaking in a television interview yesterday, Hung, of the University of Hong Kong, said as of April 18 the government has received 29 cases of post-vaccination facial paralysis. Seven of them received the German-made BioNTech/Fosun jab.

Hung said BioNTech has listed facial paralysis as a rare side effect of its Comirnaty vaccine, but Sinovac has not made such statement for its CoronaVac jab.

"We've seen most of the cases in Sinovac recipients to be male, who commonly developed the condition within 48 hours," he said.

Hung revealed that his HKU team is conducting a research on facial paralysis in Sinovac takers.

"If after several months of observation we find the number of post-Sinovac facial paralysis cases to be higher than the occurrence in previous years, we would recommend the pharmaceutical firm to list it as one of the side effects in the vaccine's guideline," Hung said.

In the 29 cases, 20 of them occurred between April 5 and 18.

According to the Hospital Authority, an average of 56 Bell's Palsy cases were reported over the same period every year between 2018 and last year.

On deaths among vaccine recipients, Hong Kong has seen 28 cases, including 22 taking Sinovac and six BioNTech since the city's inoculation program rolled out on February 26.

The latest death was a 57-year-old man who had hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity. He received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine last Monday, the Department of Health said.

He was found unconscious on the street around midnight yesterday and admitted to the accident and emergency department of Yuen Long's Pok Oi Hospital, where he was subsequently certified dead.

Hung said more cases have been reported among Sinovac recipients because the average age of people taking that vaccine is 20 years older than those getting BioNTech.

"Among elderly people, a larger proportion suffers from chronic diseases, including cardiovascular, heart diseases, diabetes and hypertension," he said.

"If their chronic illnesses are not under control and they have taken the vaccine, naturally they are more likely to develop adverse events, which are essentially unrelated to their inoculation," he said.

As of Saturday, around 518,000 people have completed both doses of vaccination, including 315,500 taking Sinovac and 202,500 BioNTech.

Another 936,400 have taken one dose, including 434,800 for Sinovac and 501,600 for BioNTech.

On Saturday, 32,700 have booked their vaccination on the government's online system, among whom 6,300 opted for Sinovac and 26,400 BioNTech.

Meanwhile, local broadcaster Now TV interviewed 98 youngsters between ages 16 and 29 in a street poll and less than 10 percent said they will definitely take the vaccine and around 65 percent said they will not.

The remaining one quarter said they are thinking about it.

Among those who said no, over half of them are worried about potential side effects, 20 percent said vaccination is not necessary and more than 10 percent believe the jabs cannot offer sufficient protection.

A woman said: "I will wait for another three to four years, when all the documents and evidence prove it's stable, without much side effects, and that I'll be fine after taking it. Then I'll take it."

The 10 percent willing to take the jabs said they want to be protected while studying abroad and potentially go traveling when borders reopen.

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May 2021

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