Hong Kong has approved the use of the BioNTech coronavirus vaccines, with the first batch of vaccines arriving as early as late February.
The Food and Health Bureau issued a statement on Monday approving the emergency use of the German vaccine, acquired by Fosun Pharma, a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company. The move follows the advice from an expert panel.
The advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines recommended the use of BioNTech vaccines last Monday, as its “efficacy outweighs its risks.” The advice given by the panel to the government was also uploaded to the bureau’s website for public access.
BioNTech and Fosun Pharma would have to fulfil additional requirements imposed by the bureau to assure the safety of the vaccine.
The companies have to continuously submit the latest clinical data, safety update reports, and the quality certification of each batch of jabs manufactured.
According to the government, the first batch of around one million doses of BioNTech vaccines had already completed the manufacturing process, and were undergoing safety and quality tests.
The bureau added that, depending on the completion of the tests, the vaccines were expected to arrive in Hong Kong from Germany in late February.
Following reports in other countries of severe side effects after taking the BioNTech vaccines, the bureau had requested further information from the firm.
The bureau also formed a committee to monitor the possible side effects after vaccination. The committee is led by Ivan Hung, clinical professor and assistant dean of the department of medicine at University of Hong Kong, and Dr. Lee Cheuk-kwong, chief executive and medical director of Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service.
Other members of the committee, who are experts in fields such as forensic pathology, microbiology, and pharmacology, came from local universities, the Hospital Authority, and the Department of Health.
While over 20 elderly people in Norway died after taking the BioNTech vaccine, a spokesperson for the government said that it would still be beneficial for the elderly to be vaccinated as the World Health Organisation said that the mortality rates were in line with expectations.
“To strengthen the public’s confidence in the vaccine, the government’s vaccination work will continue to use scientific evidence as a base and transparency as a principal, and at the same time continue to monitor the use of the vaccine” the government’s statement read.
“The government will also use different means to provide citizens with the latest information on the relevant vaccines, and publish the experts’ advice on the provision of vaccines, allowing citizens to grasp the correct and comprehensive information of the relevant vaccines.”
Hong Kong has reported 10,086 cases of Covid-19 and 169 deaths.