Vaccine scares are not uncommon. The abrupt suspension of Covid-19 shots made by BioNTech pending investigations over “packaging defects” in a batch administered in Hong Kong and Macau has put the governments’ emergency response to the test. Until there is scientific evidence showing safety is compromised, the moratorium, officials say, is a case for precaution rather than alarm. That said, the fiasco does nothing for a campaign that is resisted by many people. Every effort must be made to reassure confidence. The decision followed the advice of Fosun Pharma in response to government queries over a series of problems discovered by frontline medical staff. Since the roll-out in early March, there have been dozens of reports about cracked containers, loose caps, stained bottles and leakage. Officials are adamant that such irregularities are matters for the manufacturer’s attention, adding that it shows the stringent monitoring system has been working well. Even though these shots in question are said to have been discarded, people are dismayed when they only knew about the defects on Wednesday. The minister overseeing the vaccination programme has rightly apologised for the inconvenience and chaos caused. The suspension was only confirmed in a brief statement after Macau made a formal notice on Wednesday morning. Many people only knew vaccination centres had closed when they showed up for their bookings. Some 1,000 people still managed to get the shot at various centres. About 11,000 jabs that have been diluted for use will be discarded. The setback comes at a time when the government is struggling to boost the inoculation rate. The roll-out of the Sinovac vaccine has slowed as more reports of serious side effects come to light. Whether it would further dampen public confidence in the campaign remains to be seen. With vaccination seen as the hope of a turnaround in the year-long pandemic, there is no room for doubt and uncertainties. Hong Kong halts BioNTech shots; fears over vaccination drive ‘hiccup’ dismissed Any speculation over vaccine safety is unhelpful at this stage. The manufacturer must work closely with the government in restoring public confidence. The public expects nothing short of a speedy and thorough investigation, with high standards of transparency and accountability. Equally important are the arrangements for cancelled and new bookings. With some 150,000 BioNTech shots already administered, many people will be due for the second shot in the coming weeks. The authorities must ensure there will be safe and adequate supply. Medical history has shining examples of vaccination winning over diseases. While there is no reason for panic at this stage, any serious mishap may further undermine confidence. The last thing we want is a vaccine scare spreading like a contagious virus.