Vaccine delay to push back start of jabs program

Local | Mandy Zheng 28 Jan 2021

Mainland pharmaceutical company Sinovac said it needed time to gather the documents it needs before it can submit an emergency use application for its Covid-19 vaccine in yet another delay.

The SAR government required the company to hand in all files in one go before authorities could start processing the application, Sinovac said yesterday.

One of the requested documents was the vaccine's clinical trial data published in a globally acknowledged peer-reviewed medical journal. Sinovac has delayed releasing phase three trial results three times so far.

Sinovac said while the jab's phase one and two statistics were published on the Lancet in November, its phase three data had just come out based on experiments in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia, and have not been published yet.

"We expect that we can only officially submit the application [to Hong Kong] after all the documents needed by [the advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines] were gathered," the firm said.

It did not give an exact time for when the data could appear in medical journals, as it takes time for researchers in different countries to collaborate on the report.

It would provide relevant statistics and ship the vaccines upon the SAR's request, without specifying when its jabs would arrive in the city.

Authorities had expected the Sinovac vaccine to arrive in Hong Kong this month so that a citywide vaccination scheme can begin after the Lunar New Year.

But as Sinovac has yet to provide phase three data, officials have decided to approve the German-made BioNtech vaccine, scheduled to arrive at the end of next month, for emergency use first, which could push the beginning time of vaccination to early March.

Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung yesterday suggested construction workers and staffers at high-risk premises such as beauty parlors and gyms be added to priority groups for inoculation.

Ho said having such workers take the jabs first would help their workplaces resume operations, thereby restoring normal life.

Ho said it is hard to say whether such parlors could still survive if their staffers need to wait for months before getting inoculated.

Construction workers also need to enjoy priority as they could not wear masks all the time at work, he said.

That came as Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told lawmakers people would have to make reservations for both doses of the vaccine via an online system.

Chan said the system would allow people to make bookings in one go, and reminders would be sent so they would not fail to get the second shot on time.

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