Published: 10:15, December 13, 2020 | Updated: 08:22, June 5, 2023
HKSAR govt eyes mass COVID-19 vaccination in 2021
By Wang Zhan

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung meets the press ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting at the Central Government Offices, Hong Kong, Nov 10, 2020. (PARKER ZHENG/CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government will procure enough COVID-19 vaccines to cover the entire population and aims to provide free vaccination to most Hong Kong residents by 2021, a senior government official said Sunday.

The vaccination program led by the HKSAR government allows the public to receive vaccines free of charge on a voluntary basis. The first batch of vaccines will give priority to high-risk groups such as medical staff, the elderly, patients with chronic diseases, and staff of nursing homes for the elderly and disabled, said Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, chief secretary for administration of the HKSAR government.

The vaccination program led by the HKSAR government allows the public to receive vaccines free of charge on a voluntary basis

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According to Cheung, procurement of vaccines for 35 percent of Hong Kong's population will be made under the COVAX mechanism led by the World Health Organization, and more doses will be purchased from producers.

Paul Chan Mo-po, financial secretary of the HKSAR government, also said the government is actively working on the procurement, aiming to obtain as many vaccines as possible in the shortest time, initially aiming at twice the population.

In his blog, Chan said even with the help of vaccines, the HKSAR government still needs to remain vigilant and control the epidemic as far as possible to prevent it from rebounding and adding pressure to the already weak economy and people's livelihood.

With limited government resources, the amount of short-term support provided to industries affected by COVID-19 is only a drop in the bucket. Controlling the epidemic is after all the long-term solution to resume normal operation of all industries and people's daily life, he added.

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In a statement on Saturday, the Food & Health Bureau said the HKSAR government reached an agreement with Fosun Pharma to procure a maximum of 7.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with German drug manufacturer BioNTech.

The bureau said the mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2) from Fosun will be manufactured in Europe, with the first batch of one million doses expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest.

The bureau said Fosun Pharma is the strategic partner of BioNTech in China and the two companies will work jointly on the development and commercialization of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, developed based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology. 

BioNTech will provide technical resources and pre-clinical research information necessary for making clinical trial applications and to facilitate the trials in the region. It will also provide the necessary products for the purposes of clinical trials as well as marketing and sales.

The BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine developed by BioNTech had been approved for emergency use by the health authorities of the UK and Canada. Pfizer is BioNTech’s collaboration partner for the mRNA vaccine in regions other than China.

The HKSAR govt is also getting the Sinovac Biotech (Hong Kong) vaccine which, according to information provided by Sinovac, will be produced in Daxing District, Beijing. The first batch of one million doses is expected to be delivered to Hong Kong in January 2021 at the earliest.

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The government also planned to obtain 7.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. These are expected to start arriving in Hong Kong in batches by the end of the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest.

Due to a confidentiality agreement, their manufacturing location cannot be disclosed at this stage, the bureau said.

It added that the government will continue to negotiate advance purchase agreements with other vaccine developers and strive to provide sufficient supplies of vaccines proven to be safe and effective for the Hong Kong population as early as possible.

With inputs from Xinhua