Caixin
Jan 26, 2021 08:32 AM
CHINA

Hong Kong Approves Covid-19 Vaccine From Fosun and BioNTech

Millions of people in the U.K., the U.S., Canada and the European Union have already taken the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.
Millions of people in the U.K., the U.S., Canada and the European Union have already taken the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

Hong Kong regulators approved the emergency use Monday of a Covid-19 vaccine co-produced by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. Ltd. and German vaccine-maker BioNTech SE. The first batch of around 1 million doses is expected to arrive in late February.

The vaccines, co-developed by BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer Inc., have already completed manufacturing and are undergoing safety and quality tests. Fosun, a partner with BioNTech, is responsible for cold-chain management, storage and distribution.

Millions of people in the U.K., the U.S., Canada and the European Union have already taken the vaccine. The BioNTech vaccine becomes the first Western coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out to the public in Hong Kong.

The mRNA vaccine requires two doses to provide maximum protection, with a recommended interval of 21 days between doses. The shots showed 95% effectiveness against the coronavirus based on clinical trials overseas and had a solid safety profile in some jurisdictions, with experts saying it is also likely to prevent virus transmission. Younger age groups recorded more effectiveness than older age groups.

Sophia Chen, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, said Jan. 13 that the government would set up special community vaccination centers in 18 districts to provide free vaccination to the public to ensure procedures meet requirements.

Other non-mRNA vaccines are expected to be offered through private hospitals and clinics. Hong Kong authorities recommend that high-risk groups such as health-care workers including nurses and the elderly be first in line to receive the vaccine.

The Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee appointed by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region recommended the use of BioNTech vaccines as “efficacy outweighs its risks,” although there have been some side effects, including seven vaccination-related deaths in Germany.

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Norway reported 33 deaths in people older than 75 years after they were vaccinated. The World Health Organization of the United Nations said there was no evidence that the deaths among older people were related to the vaccine. Liu Zexing, head of the Vaccine Advisory Committee, said Hong Kong will collect more information from Fosun and Norway health regulators.

Common side effects of the vaccines include swelling or pain in the arm where the injection is administered, headache, tiredness and fever, the Food and Health Bureau said Monday. The Hong Kong authority also plans to establish a compensation fund for people who suffer serious complications from vaccines and to offer financial assistance for people who need it.

Fosun, whose shares are listed on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges, is BioNTech’s partner in Greater China including in the special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. One of the challenges facing Fosun is maintaining the super-cold temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius needed throughout the supply chain to safeguard the fragile strands of genetic material that make up the vaccine.

Hong Kong with 7.5 million people has so far struck deals to purchase 22.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with 7.5 million doses each coming from three suppliers: Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech; Fosun/BioNTech; and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

Hong Kong has reported 10,086 cases of Covid-19 and 169 deaths as of Jan. 25.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

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