BioNTech vaccination to resume on Apr 5, about 300k more jabs to arrive Friday

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Vaccines from BioNTech will be available again in community vaccination centres starting Monday, Apr. 5, after the German drug developer addressed packaging issues in earlier batches of the jabs shipped to Hong Kong.

Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip said over 180,000 people with vaccination appointments were affected, of which 30,000 have scheduled for the second dose. Those who are set to receive their second dose of BioNTech’s vaccine on or before Apr. 4 can set appointments from Apr. 5 to 10, Nip said.

For residents whose appointments for the first Comirnaty shot were canceled, the government will send them a new schedule via text message beginning Apr. 2. Should they not be available on the date the government set for them, they can book for new schedules begin Apr. 3.

But Nip warned that rescheduling may cause delays in their second dose due to an expected increase in booking volume, which can affect the efficacy of the vaccine.

“I would like to appeal to those who have been made appointments by the government to keep the appointment as far as possible so they could receive their second dose of the BioNTech vaccine as soon as possible,” he said.

Those scheduled to get jabs on Apr. 5 onwards will push through with their vaccine appointments.

Hong Kong authorities continued the inoculation scheme after receiving notification of BioNTech’s analysis on defects found in the caps of previously shipped Comirnaty vials.

BioNTech’s interim investigation linked the leakages found in some Comirnaty vials to the rubber plug and metal rings in the caps, Director of Health Dr. Constance Chan said. The plug hardened under the vaccine’s -70 degrees Celsius storage temperature requirement, so the metal ring was not tightly fastened and air could seep in.

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The entry of air changed the pressure in the vials which caused the leakage, Chan explained.

The German drugmaker reportedly checked the production process of the two batches of Comirnaty vials already shipped to Hong Kong and found no irregularities in their handling.

“Based on this finding, BioNTech says that because of detailed data analysis and random checking, there’s no evidence to show that batches 210102 and 210104 have any safety or quality issues,” Chan said.

She also said the risk of contamination of the shipped vials despite exposure to air is very low after the Health Department checked them. BioNTech also believes the efficacy of the vaccine was not affected.

“Members of the public who have taken the BioNTech vaccine need not be worried,” she said.

But authorities will hold off on using the two batches pending the completion of BioNTech’s investigation. Instead, it will use 300,000 new doses expected to arrive tomorrow—which were produced at a different plant to address the packaging issues.

Authorities suspended the Comirnaty vaccination scheme since Mar. 24 after BioNTech informed the Hong Kong government of the defects.