HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong is set to grant emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, citing an unidentified government source.
The move would mark the first approval for any Covid-19 vaccine in the city, and clear the way for inoculations to begin as Hong Kong seeks to stamp out a winter outbreak. The shot could be approved by the government this week, the SCMP report said.
A green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation is likely to soothe residents who have seen places like mainland China and Singapore already kick off their vaccination drives.
While Hong Kong’s coronavirus cases have not risen drastically compared with global cities such as London and New York, strict social distancing rules such as the closure of schools and some businesses are in place.
The vaccine is being marketed by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
A government-appointed panel of experts said Monday (Jan 18) they recommended that Hong Kong approve the vaccine for use, although they also said Hong Kong is seeking more data from the Norwegian and German governments on reported deaths of elderly people after they received the Pfizer shot.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan will make a final decision on the vaccine.
The former British colony announced on Dec 11 that it intends to purchase 7.5 million doses of the mRNA vaccine, which data indicate has a 95 per cent protection rate against Covid-19.
The city is expected to receive some of the shots in February, government advisers earlier told Bloomberg.
The Asian financial hub has purchased enough doses – including from Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca – to cover its 7.5 million residents, and plans to offer people a choice of which vaccine they will take.
Advisers to the Hong Kong government say that a slower roll-out is out of caution. That stance – shared by many Asia-Pacific economies – may seem strange given the urgency to resume normal life, but low infection rates mean that Asian governments are able to wait to see how the unprecedented vaccination drives play out elsewhere.
The city has seen 166 deaths from Covid-19 – still roughly half of the total death toll inflicted on Hong Kong from the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or Sars, pandemic which killed nearly 300 people in the early 2000s.
Despite almost two months of social distancing, the city’s infection curve appears to be ticking back up after mass testing was conducted among some housing estates.
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