HK appeals residents to get inoculated amid concerns that doses will expire

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – The Hong Kong government has urged residents to get inoculated against COVID-19 at the earliest amid worries that vaccines could go to waste.

"We appeal to those who have not received vaccination to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and others, thereby building up the herd immunity barrier for Hong Kong," Sophia Chan, secretary for food and health, said in a written reply to questions in the Legislative Council.

The special administrative region began the inoculation drive with Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines on Feb. 26.

She said the government has ordered a total of 15 million doses, and over 2.17 million of the four million doses received have been administered.

"The storage space of chilled warehouses meeting such requirement is limited. Moreover, the vaccines have a relatively short expiry date from the date of manufacture (around three to four months after arrival in Hong Kong). If the quantity of uptake falls short of the quantity procured, some of the precious vaccines will be wasted," the official said.

"Therefore, we call on members of the public not to delay and get vaccinated while current stock lasts and the service capacity is still sufficient at the Community Vaccination Centers."

Sophia said that in order to avoid wastage amid tight global supply, the government will estimate the quantity of vaccines that may become excessive, and discuss with the drug manufacturers how to handle the expected surplus doses within this year or before their expiry dates.

Hong Kong has reported 11,836 coronavirus cases, including 210 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

– ‘China stops BioNTech from selling vaccines to Taiwan’

Amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases in Taiwan, President Tsai ing-wen has alleged mainland China to have stopped BioNTech from selling vaccines to Taipei.

“The government and the German manufacturer almost completed the contract but because of China's intervention, the contract has been delayed until now,” Tsai said, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The island nation reported 633 new infections and 11 related deaths, bringing the total to 6,091 including 46 fatalities. Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered since March 22.

The president said Taiwan is working to expand vaccination, and also extending current Level 3 nationwide restrictions, including the closure of schools, until June 14.

Latest restrictions announced by the Central Epidemic Command Center include closure of leisure and entertainment venues, only takeout services for food and beverage vendors, suspension of wedding receptions and public memorial ceremonies of funerals, and a halt to all religious gatherings or events. Places of worship have also been shut for the public temporarily.