District centers for jabs planned

Local | Jane Cheung and Michael Shum 8 Jan 2021

Each of Hong Kong's 18 districts will get at least one vaccination center when Covid-19 jabs begin as early as next month, says the Undersecretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi.

The centers would offer the Europe-made BioNTech/Fosun vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius and has to be unfrozen and diluted before administration.

"The BioNTech jabs require strict handling as the shots have to be administered within days after dilution," Chui said yesterday. "We think a centralized arrangement by the government is better.

"For other vaccine options, if they require similar handling to flu vaccines, private medical institutions can also help."

He said authorities are planning for logistics, manpower and venues, adding the initial phase of administration will target high-risk groups such as the elderly, chronic disease patients, medics and care-home workers.

The government has announced its success in procuring three vaccines - BioNTech/Fosun, Sinovac and AstraZeneca/Oxford - for the SAR's 7.5 million populace, with storage requirements for Sinovac and AstraZeneca easier.

Each brand will supply 7.5 million shots. The first batch of one million doses of Beijing-made Sinovac is set to arrive early March, with administration to begin in the same month.

The long-awaited report on Sinovac shots' phase III clinical trial in Brazil is expected to be released today after being delayed on multiple occasions.

Chui said government experts and scientific committees under the Department of Health would study the report and review its safety and efficacy before approving them for emergency use.

A government vaccination steering committee member, Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, said vaccination centers will have resuscitation facilities and observation beds in case of adverse reactions.

"We also need to prepare back-up power supply for the medical refrigerators so the vaccines wouldn't go to waste in case of a blackout," he said.

The president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Gabriel Choi Kin, said the Food and Health Bureau will be meeting with medical unions this evening about inviting private doctors to help with the vaccination program.

"There are around 1,000 private doctors in Hong Kong, and they can help with the vaccination program," Choi said.

"I hope the bureau can provide private doctors with brochures that clearly illustrate the side effects of those vaccines, how to explain to patients its function, and the responsibility of the doctors," he added.

Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, believes most members will be willing to help. However, the government should exempt doctors from liability in cases of adverse effects.

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