Hong Kong confirmed on Friday that it has asked AstraZeneca to suspend delivery of its Covid-19 vaccine amid fears of serious side effects and concerns about its effectiveness against new variants of the coronavirus.
The European medicines regulator said this week that the AstraZeneca vaccine could cause very rare blood clots in some recipients, prompting a cascade of countries to stop giving it to people under a certain age.
Britain sought to allay jab fears on Thursday, saying potential side effects were extremely rare – and the risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 was much greater.
Hong Kong Chief Health Officer Sophia Chan said on Friday the city had asked AstraZeneca not to deliver as planned later this year.
“We believe that there is no need for AstraZeneca to deliver the vaccines to the city this year,” she said, adding that Hong Kong wanted “to avoid any waste because vaccines are scarce in the world.”
Wealthy Hong Kong has already secured a good supply of vaccines for its 7.5 million people.
It has signed deals for 7.5 million shots each with BioNTech / Pfizer and China’s Sinovac, both of which have started deliveries.
Chan said Hong Kong was also keen to examine other vaccines that may have better results against the new strains of the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, David Hui, a leading public health expert and government adviser, called on Hong Kong to replace AstraZeneca with a new single-dose vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson.
Densely populated Hong Kong was one of the first places to be affected by the coronavirus, but strict social distancing and the wearing of universal masks have helped keep infections at just over 11,000 with 205 deaths.
Despite having a steady supply of vaccines, its adoption has been slow amid swirling mistrust of the government as Beijing cracked down on democracy supporters.
So far, only 529,000 people have received their first dose.
Public confidence has also been hampered by government messages.
Chinese Sinovac has received fast track approval despite not publishing its clinical trial data in a peer-reviewed journal.
Administration of BioNTech’s vaccine was also briefly suspended after some vials were found to be faulty, even though authorities said the damaged vials were thrown away before being used in vaccinations.
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