Covid-19 BioNTech community vaccination centres across Hong Kong suspended services on Wednesday morning after the government received a written notice from the vaccine’s supplier Fosun saying that a batch – numbered 210102 – had defective lids. The issue posed no safety risk to the public, a government press release cited Fosun as saying.

A suspension notice seen at the BioNTech vaccination centre at Hiu Kwong Street Sports Centre in Kwun Tong. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

A telephone receptionist at the Hong Kong Sanatorium Hospital located in Happy Valley, which offers the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, told HKFP that at around 8am they received a territory-wide circular from the government requesting they suspend all vaccinations, but it did not state a reason. They were, at one point, told that services could resume, but minutes later were told again to close.

The government press release was published at 10am, though it remains unclear when services can resume.

A suspension notice seen at the BioNTech vaccination centre at Hiu Kwong Street Sports Centre in Kwun Tong. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“BioNTech and Fosun are looking into the reason of the defects, and out of caution, vaccinations need to suspend immediately while investigation continues,” a government press release said. “Until now, BioNTech and Fosun have not found any reason to believe that the product pose safety risks.”

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told the press during a briefing that a second batch of vaccines has also been held up as a preventive measure.

“We are very concerned by this incident, and the Department of Health is working with Fosun in an emergency meeting to address the issue,” Chan said. When asked about residents who have already received jabs from the same batch, Chan added that Fosun had “no reason to believe their products have safety risks.”

Centres briefly reopened

A few residents were able to receive jabs before the centres were told to shut, whilst others were turned away and told to rebook appointments.

Mr. Wong, who had registered at a Kwun Tong vaccination centre, said that staff members told him that “there were no vaccines.” Wong said he was told to make another appointment and wait for a text message. “Luckily I am a retiree,” said Wong. “But what about people who took leave specifically to get the vaccine?… They’re making us do a trip for nothing.”

Mr. Wong was turned away by a vaccination centre. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

A centre in Price Edward operated briefly before closing. “I was just sitting down and a nurse was entering my information. Suddenly someone came in and said the jab need to be paused,” Mr Chan told HKFP over Whatsapp. “They didn’t give a reason… A senior nurse said there was problem with another batch, not these batches in the Prince Edward centre, but for safety, they ceased the jab anyway.”

Meanwhile in neighbouring Macau, a government website said vaccinations for a batch of BioNTech vaccines were suspended on Wednesday owing to defects in their packaging.

Additional reporting: Candice Chau and Tom Grundy.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.