An advisory panel has recommended the use of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccines in Hong Kong, after the manufacturer of the vaccine was exempted from a requirement that it publish the results of its third phase clinical trials in medical journals.

The advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines announced on Tuesday that it would recommend the use of Sinovac, manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, to the Food and Health Bureau.

Wallace Lau and David Hui meeting the press on Tuesday about the recommendation of Sinovac. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Panel convenor Wallace Lau said in a press conference that the panel unanimously agree that the vaccine’s “efficacy is greater than its risks.”

Lau added that according to documents submitted by Sinovac Biotech, the vaccine has an overall efficacy rate of 50.66 per cent, and if the second dose of vaccine is taken after a 28-day break, the efficacy rate would increase to 62.3 per cent.

In comparison, BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, which was approved for emergency use by the department last month, has an efficacy rate of 95 per cent.

The government announced earlier this month that Sinovac Biotech would only have to submit the third phase clinical trial data which they have previously passed on to the Word Health Organisation.

Trial results of a medicine would normally need to be published in a medical journal before it is considered by the Department of Health for use.

Photo: GovHK.

When asked if the panel was pressured into recommending the vaccine before the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approval for its emergency use, Lau said that “there was no pressure at all from anyone.”

“As to why we don’t wait for the WHO recommendation, as I mentioned the last time, this is about an emergency use of a vaccine that will hopefully help to protect the people of Hong Kong from Covid,” said Lau.

“And we have received the data from Sinovac, and the data that we have looked at appeared to show that this vaccine is efficacious.”

Lau added that the panel viewed the data in accordance with the WHO requirements for the emergency use of a vaccine.

Sophia Chan. File photo: CUHK.

Hong Kong reported eight coronavirus infections on Tuesday, with six cases locally transmitted, two of which had unknown origins. The city also recorded a death on the same day, bringing the total death toll to 195 people.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan confirmed on Tuesday that some social-distancing measures would be relaxed on Thursday, and that the group gathering limitation of two people could soon be increased to four if the Executive Council approved the change.

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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.