Hong Kong to Resume BioNTech Shots Monday After Defect Scare

Hong Kong will resume administering BioNTech SE Covid shots on Monday after authorities concluded that the recent emergence of defective vials didn’t pose a safety risk, capping a 12-day halt that’s further damaged confidence in the city’s dismal vaccine rollout.

The more than 180,000 residents who missed their appointments for first and second doses during the suspension will be rescheduled, with those slated to receive second shots to be given slots within the first few days of resumption, said Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip in a Thursday briefing.

The abrupt suspension last week marked a big setback for a rollout already struggling to win over public confidence. Hong Kong’s slow vaccination pace, which trails that of rival financial hub Singapore, threatens to delay its reopening, hurting an economy that suffered the dual blow of the pandemic and pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Vaccine hesitation appears widespread in the population, fueled by post-inoculation deaths and lingering distrust in the Beijing-backed government. Chinese maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s shot is the other option in Hong Kong and uptake also suffered during the BioNTech suspension: only 5,100 people received their first dose of Sinovac on Wednesday, down 41% from a week ago.

“We hope residents understand the importance of getting vaccines,” said Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan at the Thursday briefing. “We will gradually include vaccine completion into consideration regarding various containment policies.”

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. secured rights from BioNTech to develop and market the mRNA shot in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The vaccine is marketed by Pfizer Inc. in other places.

The defects that caused the suspension included loose vial caps and stained bottles and affected a small number of bottles, according to Hong Kong officials. About 1.3 million doses have been delivered to the financial hub, and around 150,000 people had received BioNTech shots in Hong Kong prior to the halt.

Fosun will deliver a new batch of 300,000 doses to arrive Friday, Director of Health Constance Chan said.

The probe found that the defects were caused during crimping of the vials in a German packaging site and that the ultra-cold storage conditions played a role, said Chan. No safety or quality concerns have been found, the companies said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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