- The move is being taken as a precautionary measure, but government officials don’t believe there are any safety issues
- Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun, which manufactures the vaccine, noticed the issue and contacted authorities
Hong Kong and Macau suspended the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday after being informed of a packaging problem affecting one batch of vials, while stressing they did not believe there was a safety risk.
The stoppage is the latest blow in efforts to role out mass vaccination programmes against a deadly virus that has killed more than 2.7 million people around the world and hammered the global economy.
“For the sake of precaution, the current vaccination must be suspended during the period of investigation,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement.
Both cities said their decision came after they were contacted about the issue by Fosun, the Chinese pharmaceutical company that is distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in China.
Vials with the lot number 210102 were found to have defective packaging, authorities said.
The statements from Hong Kong and Macau did not give any details on how the packaging was defective but both said they did not believe there were any safety issues.
Authorities said they decided to act out of an abundance of caution until their investigation is concluded.
Some Hongkongers took to social media to say their appointments that day had been cancelled and that some vaccination centres were closed.
“I haven’t lost confidence in the vaccine but I’m quite disappointed as I took the day off,” one man, who gave his surname as Wong, told AFP as he arrived at a taped-off centre.
Vaccines with the lot number 210102 have already been given to members of the public in Hong Kong.
Authorities said another batch of vaccines with lot number 210104 would be put to one side until the investigation is concluded.