Hongkongers Hesitate to Take Chinese Coronavirus Vaccine After Deaths

A health worker prepares a dose of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac laboratory, to vaccinate elderly homeless people against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, at the Samaritano de la Calle Foundation in Cali, Colombia, on March 3, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP …
LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images

The number of Hong Kong residents volunteering to receive a dose of Coronavac, a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate, has dropped from 90 percent to 72 percent following news three people died shortly after receiving the shot this week.

Many Hongkongers are simply not showing up for their pre-booked coronavirus vaccine appointments, Hong Kong civil service secretary Patrick Nip Tak-kuen told a local radio show on March 9. The proportion of people attending their vaccine appointments has dropped from 90 percent at the launch of the campaign last month to 72 percent, according to Nip, who heads the Hong Kong coronavirus vaccination program.

The reduction in vaccine take-up reflects growing public concern in Hong Kong over one of the Chinese-made vaccines offered through the program, Coronavac, after three people died and several others suffered serious health incidents shortly after receiving their first dose of the vaccine candidate, which is manufactured by the Chinese state-run pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech.

“Citizens’ concerns are understandable,” Nip said Tuesday.

Coronavac showed an efficacy rate of just 50.38 percent against the Chinese coronavirus in late-stage trials. Although the shot is not currently administered to people aged 60 and over in China, Hong Kong authorities approved Coronavac for emergency use in the city for the demographic “after a decision by local authorities to waive a requirement for developers to publish its final-stage trial results in peer-reviewed medical journals,” according to Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).

“Sinovac’s CoronaVac efficacy rate still meets the 50 percent threshold the World Health Organization considers good enough for widespread use,” the Wall Street Journal noted of the vaccine candidate’s efficacy rate in January.

Asked on Tuesday why Hong Kong health officials approved Coronavac for use by people aged 60 or over when it is not yet used for the age group in China, Nip said the epidemic situation in Hong Kong was different from that in China currently. He said the mortality rate among senior citizens in Hong Kong after a coronavirus infection “is quite high.”

“The expert panel, after reviewing all relevant vaccine data, had concluded that the benefits for senior citizens getting the jab outweigh the risks,” Nip said during his March 9 radio interview.

The Hong Kong health ministry reported Monday that 9,900 people in the city have received a dose of Coronavac so far.

“A total of 103,800 people have been inoculated with either the Sinovac or BioNTech vaccines since the drive started in late February,” HKFP reported, referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine candidate, a second option offered through Hong Kong’s coronavirus vaccine program.


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