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Probe Finds No Safety Problems With BioNTech Vaccine Packaging After Hong Kong Halts Shots

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Topline

Three days after Hong Kong paused distribution of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine over concerns about defective vials, an early investigation found “no evidence indicating any safety risks,” the local government said Saturday—meaning it could soon resume administering the vaccine to Hong Kong residents after one of the first safety scares worldwide for the vaccine.

Key Facts

Germany-based BioNTech worked with Fosun to help trial and manufacture its mRNA-based vaccine in China, and it partnered with Pfizer to test and distribute the vaccine to the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe.

An early probe by Fosun and BioNTech did not find any “obvious systemic factors” in their manufacturing process, and leaks weren’t found in other vaccine doses sent to Hong Kong, the city’s government announced in a press release.

The investigation did not rule out that vials were damaged when they were shipped from Europe to Hong Kong.

Residents who have already been vaccinated “do not need to worry,” the city said.

What To Watch For

BioNTech and Fosun hope to wrap up their investigation within a week. Pending the results, the city said it hopes to keep administering the vaccines.

Crucial Quote

“Premised on the condition of safety, the Government will strive to resume the administration of the BioNTech vaccine for members of the public as soon as possible, so as to protect public health and the health of our citizens,” the government said in a statement.

Big Number

435,100. That’s how many vaccine doses Hong Kong has administered, enough to give one dose to about 5.7% of its population, according to government data. Most have been from China-based Sinovac, though more than one-third are from BioNTech.

Key Background

The sluggish pace of Hong Kong’s vaccine rollout has frustrated some locals. The city began its vaccination campaign last month, but residents have been slow to line up for shots, partly because of concerns about the Sinovac vaccine’s safety and scattered but unconfirmed reports of fatalities among patients who received it. This skepticism comes as the Chinese government pushes for more influence over Hong Kong, which is self-governing and semi-autonomous from mainland China, sparking mass protests in the city two years ago. Hong Kong officials hope to make vaccines available to all residents by the end of the year, but BioNTech’s vaccine is crucial to its supply.

Tangent

Some 56% of residents told pollsters in January they’re willing to take the BioNTech vaccine, compared to just 29.5% who trusted Sinovac and 35% who trusted AstraZeneca.

Further Reading

Hong Kong Suspends Use Of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Due To Defective Bottle Lids (Forbes)

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