Hong Kong, Macau suspend Pfizer vaccine amid ‘packaging issue’

Temporary suspension comes after defect reported, as authorities say there is no issue with vaccine’s safety.

Hong Kong has suspended the use of Pfizer-BioNTech while it investigates flaws in the packaging of one batch of doses [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Hong Kong and Macau have suspended the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines because of a defect in the packaging of one batch of doses, officials said on Wednesday.

Vials with lot number 210102 were found to have defective packaging, authorities said, and an investigation was under way.

“For the sake of precaution, the current vaccination must be suspended during the period of investigation,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement, noting there had been “deviations in the vial seal”.

Vaccinations using a second batch – 210104 – were also suspended, it added. It did not elaborate on whether that batch was similarly affected.

Both Chinese territories said they made the decision to suspend the vaccine’s use after they were contacted by Fosun Industrial, the Chinese pharmaceutical company that distributes the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in China.

Officials said Fosun and BioNTech did not believe there were any safety risks. Hong Kong’s department of health would have an emergency meeting with the two firms over the issue on Wednesday.

Several vaccination centres around Hong Kong were told to stop using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to notices seen by residents on Wednesday morning.

Some people took to social media to say their appointments that day had been cancelled and that some vaccination centres were closed.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is one of two vaccines that are part of Hong Kong’s mass vaccination programme and needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. It is also using Sinovac, a vaccine developed in China.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies