Hong Kong is likely to delay the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine from mainland Chinese producer Sinovac due to a lack of testing data, raising transparency concerns over an injection Beijing wants to sell in developing countries.
Any doubt about Sinovac inoculation risks escalating political tensions in Hong Kong over the government’s free vaccination strategy. Carrie Lam, the leader of the territory, faces a struggle to convince some citizens to accept vaccines developed in mainland China.
Ms Lam said in December that she hoped Sinovac would deliver the vaccine in January and then begin distribution to vulnerable members of the town’s population. But the head of the Hong Kong government’s vaccine panel said on Friday that the vaccine was unlikely to be approved this month.
“We have not received a request, we have not received any documents from them, so the advisory committee will not be monitoring the Sinovac vaccine. It is not yet possible for this to come out at any time in Hong Kong, ”Wallace Lau, organizer of the government’s Covid-19 vaccine advisory committee, told the Financial Times.
Sinovac has been criticized for not publishing enough underlying data to explain the varying results of interim Phase 3 testing of its CoronaVac vaccine. Efficacy rate of trials in Brazil were lowered to 50.4 percent, just above the 50 percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization and much lower than originally stated.
Confusion over different rates has prompted governments such as Malaysia and Singapore, who are negotiating to obtain the vaccine, to reassure citizens that they would increase control of the vaccine.
In addition to Sinovac Biotech, Hong Kong has concluded vaccine agreements with Germany’s BioNTech and its Chinese partner Fosun Pharma, as well as with Oxford / AstraZeneca.
Professor Lau said BioNTech was the only vaccine to submit documents. He expected it to be approved this month and its deployment is expected to begin in mid-February.
Low public confidence in Hong Kong in vaccines was the biggest threat to the deployment, Professor Lau said.
A survey of 1,200 residents released in January by the Chinese University of Hong Kong predicted an acceptance rate of just 37% of vaccines. That figure was “well below the target required for protecting herd immunity or for easing containment measures necessary for the economy to recover,” the university said.
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Sinovac said the different efficacy rates were “objective” results from performing several independent trials. He also said the 50% figure came from a low threshold for inclusion of cases among Brazilian volunteers, as well as the decision to only test medical workers at higher risk of transmission than the general population.
The company added on Friday that it plans to submit its documentation to the Hong Kong government next week. Sinovac Biotech CEO Yin Weidong said last week the company is confident it will deliver vaccines to Hong Kong on time.
Sinovac has yet to publish the results of its Phase 3 vaccine trials in a medical journal. While not a prerequisite for the shot to be reviewed by his panel, Prof Lau said that in order to judge a vaccine, clinicians should be able to see the results reviewed by other scientists in a journal.
The company said publication depended on local partners leading the trials, and in the case of Brazil, dealing with regulators had been privileged over preparing a paper.
Asked if there would be a delay in the deployment of Sinovac, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Bureau of Food and Health said: “As the government strives to get vaccines quickly to Hong Kong, we will also ensure that the relevant vaccines meet the relevant requirements. and procedures. “