Top pharmacist urges priority booster shot for Sinovac recipients

Top News | Wallis Wang 21 Oct 2021

Those who have been inoculated with the German-made BioNTech vaccine may also need a third jab, but priorities should be given to those who had the Beijing-made Sinovac shot, says a top pharmacist.

Society of Hospital Pharmacists president William Chui Chun-ming said on a radio program yesterday there should be sufficient jabs for up to 2.5 million Hongkongers to take a booster shot.

Earlier this month, an expert group of the World Health Organization recommended a third dose for senior recipients of Sinovac and another China-made jab, Sinopharm.

Chui said: "Sinovac is about 50 percent effective only and it is not surprising to see the antibody level of people who have completed two doses lower after six months." He added it is necessary for them to receive the third dose.

"But a lower antibody level does not mean Sinovac is less protective because it can still protect people from serious illness and lower hospital admission rate," he said.

Chui said people who have received BioNTech shots may also need a third dose because studies showed their antibodies will drop six months after receiving the second jab.

"But their antibody level will not be as low as those receiving Sinovac shots as the protection rate of Sinovac is lower," he said.

Chui believed people over 60 years old or those immunocompromised need the third dose the most.

There is sufficient vaccine supply as the government has earlier purchased 7.5 million doses each of Sinovac and BioNTech jabs, he added.

As for the "mix and match" approach, Chui said overseas studies have shown that the level of antibodies is higher after mixing BioNTech and AstraZeneca shots.

"I believe the government will suggest people who have received Sinovac to continue receiving the same brand for the third dose, but it is OK if they would like to switch to BioNTech," he said.

Executive Councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who got a booster shot last month, urged high-risk groups to get a third shot.

Ip said her antibody count was 182 two months after receiving the second dose of Sinovac in March, and then the antibody level dropped to 59 in September.

But two weeks after the booster shot, her antibody count surged to 20,300, Ip said, adding her antibody remained at a high level of 17,800 this month.

She said that former secretary for security Lai Tung-kwok, who received two Sinopharm jabs and a third Sinovac jab, saw his antibody level rose to 16,000.

Ip suggested that the government allow high-risk groups, including medical workers, to receive the booster shot.

The scientific committees of the Centre for Health Protection will meet on Wednesday to discuss whether a third dose is needed.

Meanwhile, lawmakers took flu jabs at the Legislative Council yesterday. Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said 32 lawmakers signed up for vaccination.

He urged the public to receive both Covid and flu jabs to boost the SAR's vaccination rate and facilitate the resumption of cross-border travel with the mainland.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said Covid and flu vaccinations are equally important - but the two jabs should be given at least 14 days apart.

In the mainland, the central government rolled out Covid booster shots ahead of the Winter Olympics in February as Beijing started to offer residents a third jab.

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