Authorities on Wednesday stopped using the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US drug maker Pfizer, citing faulty packaging, which sparked confusion in the city’s inoculation centers.
The suspension came as Hong Kong faced slow vaccine adoption due to declining confidence in China’s Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions.
The city began its vaccination campaign with doses of Sinovac in February and began offering the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech in March. The latter is distributed in Hong Kong and Macao through a partnership between BioNTech and the Chinese Fosun Pharma, while BioNTech is partnering with Pfizer in markets outside of Greater China.
In a statement released on Saturday evening, the Hong Kong government said the results of the investigation, conducted by BioNTech and Fosun, did not rule out that the situation was “caused by environmental conditions during the long-haul transport process. “.
It was unrelated to the cold chain and logistics management of the vaccine and random testing of intact vials delivered to Hong Kong did not reveal any leakage issues, he said.
Fosun and BioNTech said the vaccines posed no safety risk and people who received them “need not worry,” the government said.
The remaining part of the investigation will focus on “verifying the integrity of the intrinsic properties of the affected vaccine lots and the safe use of the lots”.
The government said it was following up with Fosun and BioNTech to complete the investigation within a week to allow resumption of vaccine delivery to the public.
Dr Lam Ching-choi, a member of a government task force overseeing vaccine distribution, told the South China Morning Post that he expects the city to resume its vaccination program next week after that BioNTech and Fosun have submitted their full investigation report.
“The results currently show that over a million remaining vaccines in Hong Kong are safe to use and some bottles with defects should be found in individual cases,” Lam said.
“But the government will still ask the manufacturer to provide more batches of vaccine so the city can fulfill its order of 7.5 million doses. It will be better if we wait for the full report, although at present it is fairly certain that there is no security issue. ”