Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam hit out on Tuesday at “malicious” rumours over the government’s purchase of a China-made coronavirus vaccine, saying its decisions were backed by science and directed by experts.

Lam announced last week that Hong Kong would buy 7.5 million doses from mainland Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech for its free mass vaccination programme, followed by another 7.5 million shots from the internationally approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It also plans purchases from AstraZeneca.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP.

Sinovac is scheduled to supply the first million doses next month while the same number of Pfizer doses will be distributed in the first quarter, via mainland supplier Fosun Pharma.

Apple Daily reported on Friday that some members of two scientific committees under Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection had not recommended buying from Sinovac Biotech, which has not yet published information on Phase Three final clinical trials.

‘Malicious rumours’

“Unfortunately, just as with the government’s other epidemic prevention work, some people with ulterior motives were spreading malicious rumours, and publishing false information that stigmatises and politicises the vaccine purchase on the internet, and quoting negative opinions from anonymous sources,” Lam told her weekly press conference.

A government statement earlier Tuesday denied any political motive in prioritising a mainland China vaccine.

“The rumourmongers act with evil intentions in disregard of the public interest. The government expresses deep regret over the malicious act of spreading rumours targeting affairs concerning public health,” the statement read.

Photo: Kaiser/HKFP.

According to Apple Daily, a member of the Centre for Health Protection’s scientific committee suspected that – since the government had reiterated that the purchase of vaccines was backed by Beijing – it would be “politically incorrect” not to include a Chinese vaccine.

Another committee member was quoted as saying that some members had not recommended purchasing from Sinovac Biotech since there were already more than ten other types of vaccines worldwide that had entered Phase Three trials.

Lam said the government had an advance purchase agreement with the companies, and the vaccines would have to pass the third phase of trials and be granted emergency use approval by Hong Kong’s drug regulatory authority before being used.

The city is still suffering a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Hong Kong reported 98 cases on Tuesday, 89 of which were locally transmitted. The source of 30 of the local cases was unknown.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.