Hong Kong health chief moves to allay safety fears after 175,000 French-made Sanofi Pasteur flu vaccines from batch with impurities imported to city
- Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan says there is no evidence vaccines pose a threat but she urges swift end to investigation by French manufacturer
Hong Kong’s health chief on Wednesday moved to allay concerns about a possible medical scare involving substandard flu vaccines by saying there was no evidence to suggest the batch in question posed a threat.
But Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee urged French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur to complete an ongoing investigation into impurities as soon as possible and send a report to the government.
Replacements for the batch were expected to arrive before the end of the week.
About 175,000 doses of flu vaccine from Sanofi containing “white particles” had been imported into the city, health officials revealed on Tuesday.
The manufacturer said it suspected the particles could be related to plastics.
Chan said 75,000 doses had already been delivered to clinics and hospitals, but the remaining 100,000 had not been touched.
It was not known exactly how many of the distributed vaccines had been administered, or at what locations.
A government statement on Tuesday night simply said there were “around 100,000 doses of unused vaccine”.
“The Department of Health and Hospital Authority are working hard to ascertain ... how many have been administered ... and are tracing the vaccines to the points of distribution,” Chan said on Wednesday.
Authorities had so far received no report or complaint about the “white particles”, and there was “no evidence to show the vaccines had been compromised in quality, safety or efficacy, or posed any safety threat to recipients”, she added.
“We request that the manufacturer quickly finish their investigation – it is already under way – and provide us with a comprehensive investigation report on the matter.”
The company had agreed to replace the problematic stocks and would be able to meet local demand within the week, Chan said.
75,000 doses of Sanofi Pasteur flu vaccine from batch containing impurities have been used in Hong Kong
All flu vaccination services have been suspended at public hospitals and outpatient clinics, but are expected to resume gradually from Saturday. Flu vaccines from other suppliers are still available in the private sector and can still be used.
The minister said there were strict international regulations governing “good manufacturing practices” for pharmaceuticals, including vaccines. In general the Department of Health would not test those already certified as making the grade, she said.
The department said the batch concerned in Hong Kong carried the box label R3J721V and syringe label R3J72.
Sanofi earlier said it had supplied more than 20 million quadrivalent doses globally during the flu season this year, and had not received any report about safety concerns.
There was no evidence that the quality, safety or efficacy of the French-made vaccines had been compromised, the firm said, but medical facilities stocking the affected batch would be contacted and the doses replaced.
According to Sanofi, samples of the concerned batch were first found to contain white particles by Taiwanese authorities.
Hong Kong lawmaker and private doctor Kwok Ka-ki said he was disappointed with how the government had handled the incident, and was worried about the effect on public desire to get vaccinated.
He urged the government to take the initiative to inspect vaccines and set up a telephone hotline to dispel any doubts held by Hongkongers.
Sanofi Pasteur is the name of the vaccine business of pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.