Feb 19, 2021 07:26 AM

Hong Kong OKs Sinovac Shot as Mass Vaccinations Get Set to Start

Vaccines are stored in a Sinovac facility in Beijing on Jan. 12. Photo: VCG
Vaccines are stored in a Sinovac facility in Beijing on Jan. 12. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong greenlighted emergency use Thursday of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. after approving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot last month.

The first batch of 1 million doses of the vaccine will arrive at Hong Kong from Beijing Friday by air transport arranged by Cathay Pacific Airways, the company said.

Sinovac’s inactivated vaccine, known as CoronaVac, requires two shots given 28 days apart. The vaccine won conditional-use approval from China’s National Medical Products Administration earlier this month. Outside China, it has won emergency-use authorization in Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Laos, according to the company. Zimbabwe also is set to register the vaccine for approval soon.

Hong Kong’s health secretary, Sophia Chan, said the vaccine met the "safety, efficacy and quality requirements specified in Hong Kong emergency situations" and the benefits outweigh the risks.

The Hong Kong government’s expert advisory panel recommended approval of CoronaVac after reviewing new data from Sinovac showing an efficacy rate of more than 62% when two doses are administered. That is higher than the 50% rate reported last month by Brazil’s Butantan Institute, which partnered with Sinovac on trials in the country. Tests in Indonesia and Turkey showed effectiveness rates ranging from 65% to more than 90%.

Hong Kong is set to begin vaccination of the public Feb. 26, starting with people older than 60 and front-line workers. Online reservations will open Feb. 23.

The city government said it placed orders for 22.5 million doses of vaccine for its 7.5 million population from developers including BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca, although it has not yet approved the AstraZeneca shot. A first batch of 1 million doses of BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive by the end of this month.

The city government said 2.4 million people are qualified for first-batch inoculation while vaccine supplies will be enough for 1 million people by the end of February.

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The city government plans to set up a HK$1 billion ($129 million) fund to offer compensation to people who suffer adverse reactions from the vaccination as part of efforts to encourage the public to take the shots.

Hong Kong recorded a total of 10,812 Covid-19 cases as of Thursday, with 197 deaths. The city relaxed social distancing rules Thursday after more than two months of strict lockdown measures.

Contact reporter Han Wei ( and editor Bob Simison (

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