An expert panel has recommended the use of BioNTech coronavirus vaccines in Hong Kong ahead of a mass roll-out which could begin as early as next month.

The advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines announced on Monday that it would recommend the use of BioNTech vaccines, acquired by Fosun Pharma, a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company, to the Food and Health Bureau as the “efficacy outweighs its risks.”

Photo: GovHK.

At a press conference, convenor Wallace Lau said the panel considered the safeness, efficacy, and quality of the vaccine in their meeting earlier that day. The panel would also make all advice made by the panel available to the public in order to increase transparency, said Lau.

To monitor the possible adverse side effects of the vaccine, a new committee formed by the bureau would look into reports of vaccine-related health concerns after the vaccination programme starts.

According to the panel, Fosun Pharma would have to fulfil conditions such as handing update reports on the vaccine’s safety, as well as quality certificates for each batch of vaccines manufactured. The measures will ensure the continuous safeness and effectiveness of the vaccine.

David Hui (left) and Wallace Lau (right) meeting the press on Monday announcing their recommendation of the BioNTech vaccine. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Lau added that, if the panel deemed that the vaccine’s risks outweighed its benefits, it would ask the bureau to take appropriate follow-up actions, including halting it use.

Following reports that 29 elderly people in Norway died after taking the BioNTech vaccine, Lau said that the panel might ask the authorities in Norway to provide information.

Respiratory medicine expert and member of the panel David Hui said that deciding eligibility and priority for public vaccination will be decided after the panel receives more information from Norway.

When asked whether the panel would also approve Sinovac, after reports showed that the vaccine only had an efficacy of 50 per cent, Lau said that the panel would need more information from Sinovac Biotech before making a decision.

Photo: GovHK.

Hong Kong recorded 107 coronavirus infections on Monday, including 102 locally-transmitted cases – 42 of which had unknown origins.

The Covid-19 cluster in Yau Tsim Mong district recorded 20 more cases, and seven more buildings in the designated area were listed in the compulsory testing order, including number 170, 174, and 184 to 186 on Shanghai Street, as well as number 163 and 230 to 236 on Temple Street.

The Centre for Health Protection said that over a quarter of patients among the 661 locally-transmitted cases since January 4 were South Asian, and that the centre would strengthen anti-epidemic education for ethnic minorities.

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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.