BioNTech vaccine program back on track

Business | Jane Cheung and AFP 26 Feb 2021

The first batch of BioNTech/Fosun Covid vaccines could land in Hong Kong tomorrow - two days later than planned.

The delayed landing could have caused some anxious people to switch to booking for mainland-made Sinovac shots, said Henry Yeung Chiu-fat of the Hong Kong Doctors' Union.

BioNTech vaccines were supposed to arrive yesterday, but the timetable had to change because of export issues in Germany. The issues appeared resolved by last night.

Yeung said he believed the delay would not have much impact on the Hong Kong rollout of BioNTech/Fosun's Comirnaty jabs, scheduled to start at 24 vaccination centers next week.

Over the past few days many people started booking for Sinovac's CoronaVac - only 50.4 percent effective at preventing severe and mild Covid-19 in late-stage trials - at private clinics ahead of the actual inoculations from next Tuesday at the earliest.

Some had planned to get the BioNTech jab, but uncertainty pushed them to make a switch as they worried about delays, Yeung said. Others made bookings with private doctors after seeing all 70,000 places for Sinovac jabs at five vaccination centers from today to March 11 fully booked in 16 hours after online registration started at midnight on Tuesday.

"Some clinics have received dozens or even 200 to 300 bookings," Yeung said. Authorities said earlier that around 1,200 private doctors will offer Sinovac jabs at 1,500 clinics.

Yeung yesterday said doctors started booking the shots on the government system on Wednesday and expected to administer 80,000 doses initially.

"Some clinics will start vaccinations next Tuesday and Wednesday at the earliest," he said. "It will be more or less the same arrangements as vaccination centers. Recipients need to sign an e-form of consent before getting the jabs and receive a vaccination record afterwards."

Under the vaccination program, private doctors offer the jab free, with a government subsidy of HK$80 for each dose administered.

Medical Conscience president David Lam Tzit-yuen, whose team is responsible for the vaccination center at Wan Chai's Queen Elizabeth Stadium to offer BioNTech/Fosun shots, believes the jabs - stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius - need one or two days to defrost before they can be administered.

Meanwhile, an Israeli study published in The New England Journal of Medicine said the efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against symptomatic Covid-19 was 94 percent when checked seven or more days after the second dose. That came after 95 percent was achieved in BioNTech's phase 3 trials.

Chinese pharmaceutical firm Fosun Pharma is BioNTech's partner for the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan while US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is the global partner outside China.

The Israeli study involved almost 600,000 people who received the shots and an equal number who did but were closely matched to their vaccinated counterparts.

"The fact that the vaccines worked so well in the real world . . . really does suggest that if the nations of the world can find the will we now have the means to end Covid-19 forever," said Ben Neuman, a virologist from Texas A&M University.

Search Archive

Advanced Search
April 2021

Today's Standard