HK$222m of swine flu jabs burned

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 February, 2011, 12:00am

Swine flu vaccine worth HK$222 million was destroyed by the government last month after it expired.

Three million doses of vaccine were bought in late 2009 in the face of the global swine flu pandemic, but fewer than 200,000 doses were used.

The remaining doses, which expired last September and October, were collected in December and incinerated on January 8, costing another HK$11,470.

The figures were revealed in a written reply by Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok to the Legislative Council yesterday.

In November 2009, the government bought three million doses of the vaccine at HK$79 each from the French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis.

It was specified in the tender that unused vaccine would not be refunded. The government hoped the vaccine could protect two million people in high-risk groups, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, chronically ill patients, medical staff and pig farm workers.

But the vaccine was linked to miscarriages and also Guillain-Barre syndrome, a progressive weakening of the muscles which affects patients' limbs. Although the government maintained there was no proof the swine flu vaccine caused these conditions, public confidence dropped and the take-up rate waned.

By the time the vaccine expired, only 192,484 doses had been used. Recipients included 99,100 elderly people, 44,000 chronically ill patients and 20,000 children under six.

The HK$222 million cost would be accounted for in this financial year, the Food and Health Bureau said.

The government ordered 300,000 doses of flu vaccine this year, but unused vaccine can be returned.

Two men, aged 69 and 62, died of swine flu on Monday, taking the death toll since late December to 12. Thirty swine flu patients are under intensive care in public hospitals.

Bulk order

The government bought three million doses of swine flu vaccine, each costing this amount in Hong Kong dollars: $79