Hong Kong has put a delivery of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine on hold as distribution of the European pharmaceutical giant’s medication becomes mired in confusion amid reports of “very rare” cases of blood clots resulting from the jab.

The British-Swedish firm, which co-developed the vaccine with Oxford University, was due to deliver 7.5 million doses of the vaccine to the city in the second half of this year but on Friday Hong Kong health chiefs said the order had been suspended “to avoid vaccine waste”.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Photo: Patrick Nip, via Facebook.

Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan, revealed the suspension at a Legislative Council (LegCo) subcommittee meeting. Details of the deal with AstarZeneca are unclear and Chan refused to disclose when the suspension would be lifted.

“As Hong Kong currently has a sufficient supply of vaccines, even that we had made an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca, we think that AstraZeneca does not have to supply to Hong Kong within this year, to avoid vaccine waste amid a global Covid-19 vaccine shortage,” said Chan.

The suspension came after the European Medicines Agency listed blood clots with low blood platelets as a “very rare side effect” of the vaccine.

Professor Ivan Hung, member of the government’s Advisory Panel on Covid-19 Vaccines, told HKFP that AstraZeneca needs to provide more data on the risk of blood clots and the vaccine’s efficacy against coronavirus mutant strains.

“At this stage I won’t say categorically that the government temporarily should not purchase [AstraZeneca vaccines], I think we need to review all data before reaching a conclusion,” said Hung.

Sophia Chan. Photo: File photo: RTHK screenshot.

Hung added that the committee has also requested Sinovac to provide more updated data on the efficacy of its vaccine against Covid-19 variants.

The Hong Kong government has also ordered 7.5 million doses of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine and 7.5 millions doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. As of Thursday, around 170,700 people have been fully vaccinated, while about 529,400 people have received their first jab.

Suspected environment contamination

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported 14 cases on Friday, of which two infections were locally transmitted, and one of unknown origin. The city also recorded two new deaths on Friday, 207 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the pandemic.

Medical experts will visit Oi Fai House in Tuen Mun on Friday evening over suspected environment contamination after the building recorded two more preliminary Covid-19 positive cases. The estate building earlier reported two infections with unknown sources on Wednesday.

People who have stayed for more than two hours in the shopping mall in Yau Oi Estate, Tuen Mun were ordered to undergo a compulsory coronavirus test by Saturday.

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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.