Authorities should consider buying another vaccine if mainland pharmaceutical firm Sinovac fails to produce detailed statistics of its phase 3 trials by mid-February, government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong suggests.
Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at Chinese University, said during a television program yesterday that Hong Kong officials need to allow Sinovac some time to provide the data as it was the first to reach a preliminary purchase deal with the SAR.
He was asked if the deal specified that Hong Kong could only buy an inactivated Covid-19 vaccine from Sinovac and if officials would be allowed to seek another manufacturer while doing business with it.
Hui said: “Sinovac expressed interest first and the agreement has been made, so it will be given the opportunity first.”
Authorities could go for an alternative if Sinovac could not offer the clinical trial statistics or if the statistics are “problematic,” he added.
But Hui said authorities should be prepared to adjust the vaccination plan if Sinovac fails to produce the data on CoronaVac “until a certain time.”
He noted: “It’s the end of January now so we hope to get the data by mid-February. Otherwise, it will cause a huge impact on vaccinations.”
Hui said it is hard to predict whether authorities could achieve the goal of vaccinating most Hongkongers by the end of the year as the arrival times of vaccines remain uncertain.
The first 1.5 million doses developed by German firm BioNTech is expected to arrive by the end of next month, with the remaining six million to be shipped in five batches. The SAR will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in June.
Sinovac’s CoronaVac technology of inactivated Covid-19 virus is a traditional and widely used approach to produce vaccines for many diseases.
The SAR has secured 7.5 million doses of each of the three vaccines, with the Sinovac product originally expected to be the first one to reach Hong Kong, which could have been this month.
They suggested vaccines be given first to residents and staff at homes for the elderly and the disabled, medical workers and those in other high-risk occupations, people who are 60 or older, and younger people with chronic diseases.
The recommendation on CoronaVac will be updated if more clinical information is available, the scientific committee on emerging and zoonotic diseases and the scientific committee on vaccine preventable diseases said last week.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee has said SAR officials are discussing the purchase of a fourth vaccine with another pharmaceutical company.