COVID-19 Vaccines in Hong Kong: Options, Safety & Costs
There is currently an explosion of information, comments and opinions on COVID-19 on the internet and social media. We believe that on serious topics in general, and on public health matters in particular, it is essential that you rely on facts and credible, expert information. Our mission at AD MediLink is to bring you the best possible information and advice, so you can make the best choices for you and your family.
Which COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Hong Kong? When will it be available and how much will it cost? Our AD MediLink team has done all the research for you, and brings you this practical guide with all the latest information.
Which COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Hong Kong?
The Hong Kong government has chosen 3 out of more than 10 COVID-19 vaccines.
On December 11, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the government had reached advance purchase agreements with 2 manufacturers (i.e. Sinovac Biotech and BioNTech–Fosun Pharma). Each of the manufacturers will provide 7.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Hong Kong. Carrie Lam added that the government will soon reach an agreement with a third manufacturer (i.e. AstraZeneca–Oxford), which will also supply 7.5 million doses to HK.
The government claimed that the reason behind the decision is based on scientific evidence.
Provider Vaccine Name Vaccine Type Made In Doses to Be Provided Effectiveness Sinovac Biotech BioNTech-Fosun Pharma AstraZeneca-Oxford
Doses to Be Provided
Are these COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, suggested that it is the right call of the government to select Sinovac Biotech‘s vaccine because it shows “promising first and second trial data”. He indicated that although the China-based biopharmaceutical company has not yet published the third stage data, it does not mean that the data will be bad.
As for BioNTech-Fosun Pharma, except in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan where the German biotech company BioNTech has partnered with the Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma, BioNTech has partnered with the American multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer to provide COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
As part of the BioNTech-Fosun Pharma collaboration, BioNTech is responsible for the development and manufacture of its mRNA-based vaccine while Fosun Pharma focuses on the aspects of clinical trials, regulatory applications, sales and marketing.
Over the last 12 years, BioNTech has developed vast expertise in the mRNA vaccine field. Funded by the German government, the research and development of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine by the collective effects of BioNTech and Pfizer have achieved favourable results. The vaccine was found to be safe with 95% effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 through a randomised trial with 43,548 participants. However, 2 healthcare workers in the UK experienced anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction) to the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. Following these events, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued precautionary advice that people “with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food” should not be given the vaccine.
AstraZeneca-Oxford‘s vaccine was found “to have an acceptable safety profile and to be efficacious against symptomatic COVID-19” through an interim analysis of ongoing clinical trials involving 11,636 participants. Note that there were 175 severe adverse events that occurred in 168 participants.
* Important: As COVID-19 vaccines are newly developed, there is no available research yet about COVID-19 vaccines on specific populations (e.g. pregnant women, children, breastfeeding women). No vaccine is 100% safe and therefore it is crucial to disclose your health conditions to your doctor in order to decide whether to get vaccinated and minimise the risks brought by vaccination.
When will COVID-19 vaccines be available in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong will receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines as early as January 2021.
According to the Hong Kong government’s press release on December 12, below is the expected arrival period of each selected vaccine.
CoronaVac (by Sinovac Biotech): First 1 million doses in January 2021 at the earliest.
Tozinameran (by BioNTech-Fosun Pharma): First 1 million doses in Q1 2021 at the earliest.
ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (by AstraZeneca-Oxford): In the second half of 2021 at the earliest.
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Where to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Hong Kong?
At the press conference on December 11, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the government will launch a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination programme as soon as possible.
The goal of the programme is to provide vaccines for a total of around 7.5 million Hong Kong residents within 2021. Members of the public will be given the choice on whether to get vaccinated. As the vaccines will arrive in Hong Kong batch by batch, the government will prioritise vulnerable groups and high-risk groups (e.g. elderlies, healthcare workers) with a reference to the characteristics of the vaccines. Details of the vaccination programme will be announced in due course.
This programme means that you will get injected with COVID-19 vaccines via the public health sector.
As for the private sector, since BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines must be stored in temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan said that perhaps only the public sector may be able to arrange injections for its vaccines.
With regard to the storage temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for Sinovac Biotech’s vaccines and AstraZeneca-Oxford’s vaccines, Professor Chan said that arrangements can be made for private doctors to help give injections of those vaccines.
How much will a COVID-19 vaccine cost?
If you are a Hong Kong resident with a valid HKID, you can join the large-scale COVID-19 vaccination programme and it will be free of charge.
For now, there is no information on whether the Hong Kong government will provide vaccines to people who are not Hong Kong residents, or to private clinics and hospitals for purchase by the general public.
Note: According to WHO, research is still ongoing regarding how strong a COVID-19 vaccine’s protection is and how long it lasts. Researchers believe that booster shots of the existing COVID-19 vaccines will be needed so as to stay protected. University of Hong Kong infectious disease expert Pak Leung Ho said that people have to be vaccinated with the same type of COVID-19 vaccine twice for the development of immunity, but getting injected every year may not be needed.
This article was independently written and is not sponsored. It is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.