AFP/ Hong Kong
Hong Kong yesterday warned it may soon have to throw away coronavirus vaccine doses because they are approaching their expiry date and not enough people have signed up for the jabs.
Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world fortunate enough to have secured more than enough doses to inoculate its entire population of 7.5mn people.
But swirling distrust of the government as it stamps out dissent - combined with online misinformation and a lack of urgency in the comparatively virus-free city - has led to entrenched vaccine hesitancy and a dismal inoculation drive.
Yesterday a member of the government’s vaccine task force warned that Hong Kongers “only have a three-month window” before the city’s first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines go out of date.
“The vaccines all have expiry dates,” Thomas Tsang, a former controller of the Centre for Health Protection, told RTHK radio.
“They cannot be used after the expiry date and the community vaccination centres for BioNTech will, according to present plans, cease operating after September.”
Tsang said it was “just not right” that Hong Kong was sitting on an unused pile of doses while the rest of the world “is scrambling for vaccines”. And he warned new doses were unlikely to be delivered.
“What we have is probably all we have for the rest of the year,” he said.
Hong Kong bought 7.5mn doses each of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and China’s Sinovac.
The latter has yet to be approved by the World Health Organisation but was fast-tracked for use by city health regulators.
It also pre-ordered 7.5mn doses of AstraZeneca jabs but scrapped that deal earlier in the year, with authorities saying they planned to use the money for second-generation vaccines next year.
So far just 19% of the population has received one dose of either vaccine, while 14 % has received two doses.
Hesitancy is common even among the city’s medical workers.
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