HONG KONG: The Hong Kong government on Thursday (February 18) approved the Chinese-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine for emergency use after a panel of experts quickly followed its recommendation, despite the relatively low effectiveness of the medicine.
The city’s health secretary, Sophia Chan, said the vaccine met the “requirements for safety, effectiveness and quality indicated in emergency situations in Hong Kong” and that the benefits outweighed the risks.
Patrick Nip, secretary of public service, said the government expected to receive 1 million doses of Sinovac faxes by Friday, with vaccinations expected to begin on February 26.
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Chan, who along with Nip spoke at a newsletter, spoke about what she called “doubts” about vaccine safety and said all vaccines authorized by the government have been assessed to be safe by experts.
“The faxes give us hope back to normal life.”
A Hong Kong government advisory panel on COVID-19 vaccines said Tuesday that it recommends Sinovac vaccine for emergency use.
The recommendation came after the Sinovac government exempted it from publishing results of its third-phase clinical trials in medical journals because of the “urgency” for vaccination.
The advisory panel said it had received adequate data from the company.
These data, the panel said, showed an effectiveness level of 62.3 percent when two doses are administered 28 days apart.
Late stage trials in Brazil have shown an efficiency rate of just over 50 percent – the threshold used by the World Health Organization to decide if a vaccine is worth using.
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The BioNTech vaccine – the first vaccine approved by the Hong Kong Department of Health – had to publish results in a medical journal before being examined by the COVID-19 vaccine advisory panel.
Nip said the BioNTech vaccine would arrive in Hong Kong by the end of February.
BioNTech has confirmed a protection rate of 95 percent when two recordings are administered.
Residents can be vaccinated in 29 centers across the city with five offering Sinovac and 24 offering BioNtech faxes. Priority will be given to health workers, over 60s and those working in cross-border transport.
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Hong Kong reduces rules on social distancing after a sharp drop in new cases of coronavirus, including re-launching in-house dining and reopening of gyms.
The relaxation that began Thursday is an enormous relief to the city’s service sector, which has been hammered by periodic closure orders and strict food limits.
Under the new rules, indoor dining is allowed until 10pm with no more than four people allowed at a table. Other outlets that are allowed to reopen include video arcades, fitness centers, beauty and massage salons, attraction centers, karaoke bars and sports facilities. Employees at such facilities must undergo a coronavirus test every 14 days.
Public meetings of more than two people remain prohibited and masking in public is mandatory until March 3.
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